What Challenges Will You Face When Deciding To Bring Employees Back to The Work?

Since the start of the year, the world has taken on a completely different complexion. For months now, billions of people have been stuck at home under government order devastating the economy and bankrupting many businesses.

As a business owner, you may have been able to survive until now benefiting from government support, cash reserves, or deferred payments. But what is your path back to growth? What challenges will you face? How will you rebuild your business into a prosperous, sustainable, and reliable venture again? This is an opportunity to rise above the competition, to come out bigger, better, and stronger.

This article will analyze some of the challenges that you may face to help you prepare for the road ahead.

Before we begin we want to make clear that these are our opinions based on information gained from speaking with industry experts, government officials, lawyers, and others. This is not legal advice, you should consult your lawyers, policymakers, and team to determine the specific liabilities and risks to your business. Also, keep in mind that those may change depending on your jurisdiction.

Legal Liability for Employee Infections

As an employer, some courts are already ruling in favor of employees in situations where they contracted the virus at work. In many of these cases, the burden of proof has been placed on the company to show that the employee did not get infected at work. Unless you have a screening system in place and data being collected daily to ensure that nobody is entering your office with the virus. You have a significant legal liability. 

Social Distancing Enforcement

Even as you return to work, staying 6 feet apart will remain a requirement in most jurisdictions. Finding furniture and office setups that work for your team while allowing them to stay apart will be crucial. This will likely also require a mass overhaul of your management system without the ability to be in consistent contact with your subordinates or to have large team meetings. 

Legal Liability for Employee Family/Friend Infections

Further liability could exist for you as a business owner if an employee of your contracts the virus at work and subsequently infects members of their family or close friends. If you as an employer did not take the necessary precautions to protect that employee from the virus, you could be responsible for the extent of the damage caused to those close to them. This means a substantial financial burden.

Insurance

When you decide to return to work don’t be surprised if you get a call from your insurance provider asking what steps you have taken to limit the liabilities discussed above. If you haven’t taken the necessary precautions, you can expect to see a large spike in your premiums as they look to mitigate the potential costs of payouts that may occur. Being able to show that you have taken all the necessary steps to minimize the impact of the virus at your workplace can help ensure that your premiums remain low. 

Remote Work

Many workers will either want to stay remote or need to stay remote as you return to the office. The changing workforce is an evolution that all businesses will confront in the coming months. No matter your industry unless your employees are doing physical labor you will have employees remaining remote. With some countries not expecting to open schools until 2021 those with children have a legal right to stay home and care for them while working remotely (in most countries). If employees prefer to stay home for their health you will likely have to comply and if they just like remote work better, making arrangements to accommodate is the best way to promote team morale. 

Mental Health

Employees are also dealing with a pandemic, global downturn, and social isolation. Many are working from home for the first time and even if they come to the office they will be socially isolated. This is a recipe for disaster for many individuals who thrive on social interaction. Ensuring that you have taken basic steps to protect their mental health will not only help the employee but will ensure you don’t see a sudden drop off in productivity as they burn out or even face legal liability should courts deem that you had an obligation to provide that basic support.

Management

The biggest challenge facing all managers is how do you manage a team in this new economy. Many managers thrive on human interaction, they are best when talking directly to each employee, working with them, supporting them. When you are working remotely or isolated in the office, you lose the ability to implement your normal management style. To accommodate for this, you need some form of tracking. Not spying, not invading their privacy, but progress reports, an idea of what everyone is doing each day. This data is the difference between informed and uninformed decisions, the difference between fair and unfair consequences and can even be the difference between profits and losses. 

 

These are just some of the challenges that you will face. To succeed in the coming weeks, months, and years, people will need to adapt. Changes will need to be made and managers will need to rise to the occasion. As a leader you must take action, lead by example, and finding solutions to these problems is the first step. 

Liam Gill

LLB Laws, MSc Management

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* Swiff's screening function is intended to provide you with information as to employees who may potentially carry the virus. Having the Swiff application does not guarantee that you won't spread the virus and it does not guarantee that legal action won't be taken against you. What Swiff does is demonstrate a basic level of diligence and attempts to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on your employees and to reduce the likelihood that it will be spread in your office. Swiff should be used alongside other tools such as personal protective equipment or guest sign-in systems. Even in combination with other systems, it may not provide complete shielding from legal liability.

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