Industry Trends: The Coronavirus Challenge

Industry Trends: The Coronavirus Challenge

At this time, it really is hard to focus on any other ‘trending’ topic than the one that is dominating every aspect of our life right now on a 24/7 basis.  The most important aspect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as an employer now is emphasizing the action steps that should be taken to ensure the safest environment possible for employees, but you also have to balance the organizational challenges of hours of lost productivity. It is difficult and unchartered waters for many executives and HR professionals.

While many organizations have employees that can telecommute or work virtually from home (while sick or under quarantine), the most troubling challenge exists with the employee segment of American worker (on hourly pay) who can’t afford the financial hardship of lost work and pay or does not have the available time off to cover the 14 day quarantine essential for those that may have been exposed to COVID-19 or are ill with the virus.

That help may soon come from the federal government, who are currently debating and working out emergency financial relief packages to reduce the infectious spread from the ill workers who feel compelled to show up for work out of necessity. Everyone seems to be in favor of ‘paid sick leave’, but who pays for it is at the crux of the debate. Employees are suffering, but so are employers.

About 73% of private-industry workers had access to paid sick leave in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to 91% of state and local government employees. The telling statistic is just 30% of private-industry workers in the lowest 10% of wages have access to paid sick days, compared to 93% of workers in the highest 10% of wages.

In these extraordinary times where limiting the spread of the contagion relies on ‘social distancing’, we need to make unprecedented changes to allow workers to make the right decision to stay home from work when exposed or ill and quarantine. Whether it is the decision of the employer or funding from the government, there needs to be quick and decisive action before we face further angst.

In the meantime, continue to place posters that encourage staying home when you’re sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance of your workplace and where they would likely to be seen, and proactively communicate updates and company position on policy your employees need to follow.