Employers are revisiting early-pandemic insurance policies as delta variant surges

The arrival and spread of the delta variant has marked another focal point of the coronavirus pandemic.

The variant poses a number of challenges. First, the Delta strain of COVID-19 is highly transmissible – so contagious that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have compared its nature to chickenpox, despite biostatists have picked on the accuracy this statement. Second, the CDC recently published guide that fully vaccinated individuals should return to wearing masks in indoor public spaces when in areas of significant transmission.

In an internal document obtained from the New York Timessaid the CDC, since the variant is highly transferable, “it was time to ‘realize that the war has changed'”. It seems that many employers have recognized the shift, albeit independently of the CDC’s recognition. Months after the US Equal Opportunities Commission stated that employers could require employees In order to provide proof of vaccination, organizations begin to issue vaccination orders. And many are expanding remote working opportunities and renewing security measures that were rolled back during the lull in the pandemic.

“We’re dusting what we did a year ago,” said Michele Ballard Miller. chair of West Coast Labor & Employment at Cozen O’Connor, during a webinar on August 5th. Miller discussed guidelines employers are rethinking due to the surge in U.S. coronavirus cases, a wave that could be amplified by the back-to-school season, speakers said.

Masking requirements

The CDC’s July 27 masking guidelines deviated dramatically its May updatewhich states that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear face coverings. “The CDC had a little heat to tip their guidelines,” Miller said.

The agency’s statement was “pretty broad,” Miller said. For this reason, states and municipalities issue their own mandates. “This is really about employers,” Miller said. California, where Miller practices, is a strong example. “California was one of the first states to shut down last March,” Miller said. “She is now one of the first to reintroduce the mask requirement.”

Since the Cozen O’Connor webinar, the Occupational Safety and Health Agency issued instructions echo the CDC. The updated guide is advisory, not mandatory, lawyers wrote in a blog post. Should employers decide to reintroduce the mask rules, they must follow the change with clear guidelines and thorough communication. an expert said HR Dive earlier this month.

Health screenings

Temperature scans and symptom questionnaires are also reappearing. “Do you remember the applicable policies and practices?” asked Müller. The rules that were in place for health screenings at the start of the pandemic are still in place, she said.

For example, employers can screen applicants for certain symptoms – cough, headache, loss of taste or smell. But it cannot conduct such surveys selectively. “We are in a pandemic, but that still fits into our EEO laws,” Miller said. “You can screen applicants for symptoms as long as you do it for everyone.”

Miller-recommended employers review the EEOCs Frequently asked questions page for guidance on how federal anti-discrimination laws intersect with pandemic policies.

Employers reintroducing health screening must also consider the impact on wages and hours, Miller said. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in July that Amazon must compensate its employees for waiting and performing security checks. Courts in California, New Jersey, and New Mexico have also ruled that time can be compensated, Miller noted.

Remote work and vacation arrangements

Due to the delta variant, employers can also rethink remote working and vacation regulations.

“If we talk about back to school, remote working will be a problem,” Miller said. Problems that cloud the water include persistent school closings, hybrid schools, and school mask and vaccine guidelines.

“Employers need to be prepared to deal with the issue of working from home. There are a number of companies that have already implemented full work from home, ”Miller said. “It doesn’t work for a lot of companies, but I suspect it’s an issue to be aware of on the ‘back to school’ topic.”

Employees can’t insist on working remotely, Miller noted. There is no requirement that employees have access to teleworking. However, employers must be aware of the overlap of the EBO laws, as employees with certain disabilities may be entitled to accommodation.

The rise in coronavirus cases may cause employers to rethink their vacation policies as well. Former President Donald Trump enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act to give some workers paid leave for coronavirus-related reasons. However, employers were no longer required to grant this leave after that provision expired in December. President Joe Biden signed the America Rescue Plan Act, which allows employers to redeem tax credits for offering paid sick leave for the circumstances described by the FFCRA and additional reasons, including time off to get a COVID-19 vaccine; Recovery from vaccine side effects; and waiting for the results of the COVID-19 tests.

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