Employer’s Guide: Back to Work Amid COVID-19
Mounting consumer and political pressure mean the U.S. will likely reopen for business in the coming weeks and months. As we know, South Carolina has already begun scaling back its emergency directives, but the path back to business-as-usual means employers should be taking steps now to best position themselves for compliance with the White House’s new guidelines on reopening the country in the wake of COVID-19.
The White House recently released its proposal for “Opening Up America Again,” which can be found at whitehouse.gov/openingamerica. The proposal sets forth guidelines for states to safely reopen themselves for business in a phased approach.
First, the Administration sets out a threshold “Gating Criteria” for states considering reopening for business. These criteria include downward trends in COVID-19 symptoms and cases, and hospital preparedness. Once the state has satisfied the threshold criteria, it is recommended they proceed to “Phase 1.” Generally, in Phase 1 employers are recommended to:
- Continue to encourage teleworking “whenever possible and feasible with business operations”
- “Return to work in phases” where and when possible
- Close common areas where employees “are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce strict social distancing protocols”
- “Minimize non-essential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel”
- “Strongly consider special accommodations” for employees “who are members of a vulnerable population”
Phase 1 recommendations also speak specifically to certain employers, and set forth guidelines for those particular employers, namely schools and youth sports, large venues, gyms, and bars.
States and regions with no evidence of a COVID-19 rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria again are recommended to proceed to Phase 2. Phase 2 is less restrictive than Phase 1, in eliminating the recommendation to return to work in phases and minimizing non-essential travel, though the other recommendations to work from home, close common areas, and consider special accommodations for vulnerable populations remain.
States and regions with no evidence of a COVID-19 rebound and that satisfy the gating criteria for a third and final time are recommended to proceed to Phase 3. During this Phase, the administration advises employers to resume unrestricted worksites. However, guidelines for specific employers, namely large venues, gyms, and bars, retain notions of social distancing and standard sanitation.