Health and safety

“What if…” The Questions Employers Are Asking

May 22, 2020

While we are all working hard to get our lives back as close as possible to our normal routines, employers are worried about what will happen if they have to shut down again. It’s stressful to contemplate going through this again, but it doesn’t help to pretend it’s impossible. You owe it to your organization and your employees to prepare for such outcomes. Employers have also been thinking about how vacation time employees have left will further affect operations.

Is there anything you can do to prepare your business? We received many questions like these after our most recent COVID-19 webinar. We’ll take a look at some of the most popular questions on the topic.

What if we need to change operations again due to another shutdown?

Resuming normal operations right away might mean having to shut down again later. There may be additional waves of contagion after governments relax measures, so follow the news closely and start reviewing your plans now. What worked about this transition? What didn’t? Revise accordingly and communicate changes to staff.

You should also prepare for and communicate the possibility that an additional shutdown won’t resemble the first. You might decide you don’t need to lay off employees again, or that remote work was ineffective and that you won’t attempt it again. Examine your emergency plans closely to determine what your next steps should be.

What if our employees have a lot of vacation time to use, and little time left this year to use it? What can we do?

Depending on how many employees you have, this could get complicated quickly, but bear in mind that you as an employer can generally schedule vacation time for employees if you need to, though this should be a last resort. These are exceptional circumstances, so carrying over unused vacation into next year is likely to have government approval. Even before lockdown restrictions relax, you can still encourage employees to take vacation. Granted, travel is impossible, and most public spaces are closed, but in these stressful times, taking a week off work can be a welcome respite, even if it’s just to hang around the house and reconnect with family. Vacation might also be a preferable alternative for some employees to a job-protected leave. The point is to explain to employees all their options and help them determine a solution that best suits their circumstances, rather than impose one method unilaterally.

Once employees are back to work, some might not think about vacation for a long time, meaning more vacation to use in even less time, so act early. Reach out to employees and identify who needs to use vacation. Develop a master schedule and let employees choose their preferred times (going by seniority is usually fair). Make sure you’ll still have enough coverage for crucial work. Although it might leave you a little short-handed, prioritize getting employees to use all their vacation; paying out unused time at year-end can be expensive, and many budgets are already strained thanks to the pandemic measures.


Our Roadmap to Resuming Operations Package is now available!

Screenshot Road map to Resuming Operations Guide

We know you’ve still got a long road ahead as you get back to your "new normal." Many employers are feeling uneasy about their plans for the future. Having a map to guide you as resume operations can help. Click here to learn more about our Roadmap to Resuming Operations package,intended to help you build a plan to resume operations that takes into account the unique factors created by COVID-19.


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