History Repeats Itself..
(3-5 minute read)
As we continue to enjoy what has been a classic Michigan summer – melting in June and bundling up in August – quietly in the background are the rumblings of the COVID Delta variant (and Delta B?). Many of us are beginning to question whether we need to be ready to disinfect and mask up again – depending on the situation.
While we continue to enjoy our relative freedom outdoors, even if you have been vaccinated when in areas of “substantial or high transmission,” some organizations that have returned to onsite work, or were planning to as summer wraps up, are reconsidering those decisions.
Meanwhile, plenty of other organizations are staying business as usual.
So, what should your business do?
For your consideration:
- In Michigan, Public Act 238 of 2020 is still in place. This Act requires employees who are COVID 19 positive, or are experiencing principal symptoms, to isolate or quarantine until released to return to work by a healthcare professional. This also includes unvaccinated non-essential workers who have close contact with another person who is COVID 19 positive.
- The law also prohibits retaliation (think progressive discipline, attendance points or similar) for individuals who must quarantine/ isolate, who oppose a violation of the act, or reports health violations related to COVID-19.
- For most employers FFCRA benefits have been extended thru the end of September (via ARPA). You may continue to pay eligible employees for time missed and receive a tax credit against those costs.
- OSHA/MiOSHA General Duty Clause requires employers to provide their employees a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to its employees.”
- We know how to protect our employees – been there, done that. We also need to do that regardless of any mandates, executive orders or similar. It is just what good employers who care about their people do.
- Not having plan in and of itself may warrant a General Duty Clause violation.
- MiOSHA has a special hotline to report COVID workplace concerns.
- Trend Lines – as history is fraught with examples of repeating itself, last year we went thru the same COVID trends we are experiencing now, just with different people being primarily impacted – the unvaccinated. While Michigan’s number are increasing more slowly than the balance of the country, do not expect this to extend into the fall unless Delta manages to burn itself out.
- Are we still encouraging, and incentivizing, our teams to get vaccinated? Both private & public organizations are mandating vaccination or requiring masks & social distancing for those that are unvaccinated. It is estimated that the “emergency use” approval for the vaccines will become “full use” soon – do you have a plan?
- You may be wondering; can I mandate that? Yes, you can. However, you also need to weigh that against the other needs of your business and a tight labor market. We continue to lean to the side of incentives for now, but you need to manage your own risk & organizational needs.
- Major employers (and public institutions) are going this route, and it certainly gives smaller employers more cover to follow suit.
- Back to the CDC Guidance. Your county may already be in a substantial or high-risk transmission area. If so, are you going to follow the CDC guidance? Michigan is about 50/50 “moderate/substantial”, with a handful or “high” areas & “low” areas.
While we are still in the “lazy days of summer,” businesses that rest during this challenging time will find themselves behind their competition when it comes to finding and retaining talent – the first step is providing a workplace they know is looking out for them.
As always, if you need help navigating these uncertain times, please reach out to your local business partners at Axios HR. Axios can provide a full range of consulting services, payroll & benefit administration to ensure you are creating a world-class work environment for your team.