Businesses play a critical role in protecting the health and safety of employees and limiting the impact of a pandemic on our communities and our economy. However, COVID-19 and its implications are evolving at a rapid pace and it can be overwhelming for businesses and employees to stay on top of the developments.
The U.S. and Canadian governments, public health agencies, and public health authorities have been working together to ensure that preparedness and response measures for both businesses and the community are appropriate and adaptable, based on the latest scientific research and the evolving situation. Businesses must stay on top of day-to-day changes and adjust their responses accordingly.
This guide is designed to help employers manage and care for their workforce during the pandemic, support business continuity, and prepare for resumption of business activities. Topics covered in the guide include:
Organizations should develop or update their business continuity plans as the situation evolves. These plans should identify potential impacts that threaten the organization, and provide a framework for building organizational resiliency. Business continuity plans contribute to an organization's ability to deliver products and services after disruption - such as the COVID-19 pandemic - and ensure that critical functions and processes are continually evaluated and improved upon.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce advises that businesses consider the following as part of their business continuity and crisis plans:
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also provides guidance, including a high-level template, for business continuity planning.
During a health crisis, communication is essential to put employees at ease, keep them informed, and help ensure that the broader organization is following company policies and best practices. A well-defined and widely understood communications plan can help create trust within the organization and ensure employees are up to date on company information, policies, and organizational changes. An effective internal communications plan typically includes direction on the following:
Communications plans will vary from organization to organization, however, it’s critical that employers are transparent and authentic during this time. Employers can consider communicating some - if not all - of the following topics to their workforce:
As Ceridian’s Chairman and CEO David Ossip says, “Now more than ever, communication must be transparent, authentic, frequent, and – above all – two-way". Learn more about how he implemented an ongoing and frequent internal communications strategy to keep Ceridian’s workforce informed.
According to The World Economic Forum (WEF), remote working is a strategy that serves businesses in a number of ways. It serves employee needs, provides resilient ways for businesses to engage with their networks while continuing to deliver value, and addresses larger community and public health needs.
While remote work is an effective means to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition can be difficult for many employees. A rapid pivot in how and where work is done is essential to flatten the curve, however, it can put significant strain on employee well-being as well as business continuity. Here are a few ways organizations can make this transition more seamless:
Responding to a crisis creates a unique set of challenges for managing the workforce. Companies will need to consider the impact of changing work arrangements, adjustments to working hours, and developments in employment law and legislation, and how best to track and manage them during this period, with minimal disruptions.
While the appropriate strategy is not one-size-fits all, the following are some general considerations for employers on the road to preparedness:
Learn more: HR and payroll tips for responding to COVID-19
Organizations should always refer to the applicable employment standards when making decisions regarding workforce planning. We have included some reference sources at the end of this document.
Organizations may have employees working from home, on-site, or a combination of both. Here are several ways to engage employees and keep the workforce connected:
In workplaces where workers have high or very high exposure risk, employers should follow the guidance OSHA and the Government of Canada provide and implement control measures depending on how high risk the job is. For example, OSHA recommends most workers at high or very high exposure risk likely need to wear gloves, a gown, a face shield or goggles, and either a face mask or a respirator, depending on their job tasks and exposure. Provide all workers with job-specific education and training on preventing transmission of COVID-19.
Organizations will need to take a critical look at their company and HR policies and practices to make sure they are consistent with changing public health recommendations and existing laws. Here are a few areas organizations will need to assess as the pandemic evolves:
The threat of COVID-19 is creating a lot of fear and anxiety for the workforce. Employers should be mindful that employees will have unique needs and personal situations when they transition to working from home, including caring for kids, tending to sick relatives, and other circumstances. Employers should consider supporting employee wellness holistically, from physical and mental health to financial support.
An evolving global health crisis presents organizations with an opportunity to rethink their benefits offerings, with an eye to both immediate and potential future employee needs. Organizations can, for example, offer wellness programs that include mental health benefits to help ensure workers have access to the type of care needed to prevent, treat, or manage psychological distress and burnout.
In our recent webinar on COVID-19 mental health implications, John Foley, Vice President of Human Resources at Builders FirstSource believes employers can support the workforce by communicating often and authentically. Most people have never experienced this level of uncertainty and change which is why it’s important to keep people informed by telling them what’s going on internally, for example, how many employees have tested positive for COVID-19, if any, and what steps the organization has taken to mitigate risk and support employee safety.
Read more about how three HR leaders are navigating through a global health crisis
While it’s critical that organizations are ensuring visibility every step of the way as changes occur, it’s just as important for employers to ensure employees’ voices are heard. Providing a platform for employees to voice concerns and ask questions will allow organizations to collect feedback from people and identify patterns and trends in employees’ emotional states. With this information, organizations can build action plans to respond quickly to employee concerns, as well as help reduce burnout and absenteeism.
When employees are financially stressed, both their health and work performance can suffer. Organizations can support employee financial well-being by considering more flexible pay options. For example, on-demand pay technology allows an employee to access their wages earned on the same day, rather than waiting for the pay period to end to be paid out. This will help employees reduce stress around finances and signal to employees that the organization is recognizing and meeting their needs.
Consider extending company resources or exploring discount programs to give employees more tech support and infrastructure. For example, organizations can extend use video conferencing tools like Zoom for employees’ personal calls, or provide loaner laptops and other electronics for parents with kids at home. Some organizations also provide discount programs for employees to purchase the same hardware, software, and applications they use at work for personal use. Employers can consider connecting employees to employee assistance program (EAP) resources (if available) and online resources such as the CDC’s guide to managing stress and anxiety as well as CAMH’s guide to mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers and employees can also download the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. This free online toolkit outlines 13 factors that affect the mental health of employees in the workplace.
Watch our recent webinar, COVID-19: Mental Health Implications
Preparedness is the best way organizations can mitigate the risks posed by the pandemic, particularly as the situation evolves day-to-day. OSHA recommends that employers develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan to protect against the spread of COVID-19 today and prepare for potential reintroduction of the virus in the months to come. The plan should consider the levels of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks employees perform at those sites. The plan should also address other steps employers can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure to the virus in their workplace (listed below).
Organizations will need to develop policies around identifying and isolating sick employees, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here are a few steps to consider:
Learn about Dayforce’s Employee Safety Monitoring technology to help organizations manage and track employee COVID-19 exposure
The CDC recommends employees who are well but have a sick family member at home should notify their manager or supervisor and follow CDC recommended precautions.
Employers can play a major role in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities – especially as work from home policies are eventually lifted. Organizations can follow actions recommended by The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as encouraging sick employees to stay home and follow the CDC’s recommended steps to limit the spread of COVID-19. Both the CDC and the World Health Organizations (WHO) recommend employers continue to reinforce preventative measures – which can be applied even as normal business activities resume – by implementing the following practices:
When employees eventually return to the office and resume regular business activities, employers may want to consider setting a policy around holding in-person meetings. The WHO advises employees ask the following questions before holding meetings in smaller spaces:
The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving on a daily basis. An organization’s response to this health crisis should be based on reliable and up to date information provided from sources such as the WHO, CDC, and public health agencies. Here is a list of additional resources to help employers make informed business decisions during COVID-19:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
World Health Organization (WHO): Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19
U.S. Department of Labor: Coronavirus Resources
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
Government of Canada: Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: Support for Canadians and Businesses
Government of Canada: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Being prepared
Government of Canada: Resources for Canadian businesses - Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
Canadian Chamber of Commerce: Pandemic Preparedness for Business
Dayforce Employee Safety Monitoring: One of several new features and resources Ceridian has launched to help companies manage their employee response during the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19-related learning portal: Resources on COVID-19 preparedness and spread prevention, managing remote teams, and workplace mental wellness. These resources are available free-of-charge to both Dayforce customers and prospects. Access the Learning Portal