For business owners, employees, and managers – the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has brought a list of new and special challenges. We have all faced changes to our daily work environment, the economy at large, and our efforts to continue products and services under a safe environment.
On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) first declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and County health departments are providing updates frequently. Staying up to date will be important in the days ahead.
Review the lastest information from the CDC for work environments.
See the latest updates from the Riley County Health Department.
REDUCING RISK AS A BUSINESS OWNER
As a business, your biggest risk is to act recklessly in the wake of information provided to the public. This virus is, according to the CDC is spread by droplets or contact. The period between exposure and symptoms has ranged two to fourteen days. While guidance continues to evolve, in order to be certain you are not directing your business or employees in a reckless manner, we suggest you become familiar with the following:
1. NECESSARY SERVICES
What is the approved definition of necessary services? Does your business or portions of your business qualify as necessary services in the event of a voluntary or involuntary shelter in place order?
2. OFFICE POLICIES
What policy should the business follow for employees reporting to work: temperature scanned upon shift changes? All with fevers over 100 or known exposure are asked to stay home until 24 hours after fever ends or up to 14 days self-quarantine if within areas for which self-quarantine is directed. Review sanitation procedures and supplies to provide soap and hand sanitizer at counters, in bathrooms, close to building entry, near work stations. Allow frequent breaks (every 30 minutes) for hand washing.
Be certain work surfaces, door knobs and trash cans are cleaned, sanitized and trash disposed frequently.
CDC Advice for Cleaning and Disinfecting (PDF)
To make certain you meet OSHA requirements concerning COVID-19, you may want to review the online OSHA guidelines. Should you need assistance in order to come up with clear communication or policy to address this, please contact our office.
3. NON-ESSENTIAL INTERACTIONS
In accordance with CDC and County advice limit employees in work place and reduce or end any non-essential in person meetings and travel. As we come through the virus period, remain vigilant on travel guidance for other states and international travel.
4. POTENTIAL EXPOSURE & CONFIDENTIALITY
Be familiar with and follow appropriate notification to employees and clients of possible exposure to COVID-19 in your business by other customers or employees. At the same time you need to be careful not to reveal confidential health status of employees in the communication.
5. REDUCTION IN WORK FORCE
Be familiar with options for reduction in work hours or work force including State of Kansas Department of Labor Shared Labor Workforce Reduction, Unemployment filings and notices, how reduction in work hours may impact employee benefits such as retirement contributions, disability insurance, life insurance or health insurance premium coverage. Are your group plans tied to benefits to those only working over 30 hours and without extended leave?
Understand when COBRA notices are required. Amend employee benefit plans as necessary to remain in compliance. Does your vehicle insurance plan for company cars cover period when an employee may be receiving unemployment benefits? Some employees will have come to rely on the vehicle as their family’s second vehicle etc. Be clear about any liability during any period of unemployment or shared leave unemployment.
6. PAID LEAVE
Understand available paid leave and resulting tax credits due to COVID-19. Know how to follow the Family and Medical Leave Act and requests for accommodations under ADA. We are pleased to review your circumstances with a variety of options becoming available for reimbursement to business owners. Review the terms of the Families First Corona Virus Response Act and legislation to follow to assist employers and employees.
7. LIMITING POTENTIAL LIABILITIES
Review your company handbook concerning employee communication, work at home, on call policies, use of employer provided software or apps on employee equipment, reimbursement of employment related expenses, driving in conjunction with employment. Many, employers for the first time are faced with liabilities they have not before experienced. Such as substance use while working at home, driving a personal vehicle to attend to a client matter.
Privacy of work related documents in a home environment where the employer cannot control household access. In each instance the employer must consider is my action reckless to the employee or customer? Have I provided proper notices? Have I received proper waivers from clients or employees? Is there a safer way to react to the needs of our business in conjunction with CDC guidelines? In the event your policies require an amendment for pandemic interim action, we are pleased to assist.
8. SUCCESSION PLANNING OF POSITIONS & BUSINESS OWNERS
This is the appropriate time to define for your business the succession of key employees during any interim period in which the key employee is not available. At the same time determine the best communication method to employees of an another employee’s sickness or period of separation from work. A phone tree or email delivery should be tested.
With respect to private businesses, this is a good time to discuss the provisions of any buy sell or company value so that each business owner’s successor in interest in well aware of the plan for ownership and business management succession. We believe these agreements should be formalized in advance and are available to help.
9. FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS DURING THIS UNCERTAIN PERIOD
Currently banks are working with borrowers to prepare for the short term and allow businesses to keep operating and employees to be paid. Additional SBA loans are available as well. We have decades of experience assisting borrowers and banks to craft creative solutions to payment structures, collateral, avoiding joint and several guaranty agreements, restructure of commercial leases, and other opportunities to keep your business moving forward.
Contact us for suggestions, to review your loan documents or lease and offer advice, or to represent you in negotiations with a lender.
10. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Much like instructions from your flight attendant, as a business owner it is important you take care of yourself. Make sure your estate plan is in place so it is clear who will act on your behalf at any time you are not available. Strife within the family, breeds fear in the workplace. Be certain you have adequate cash on hand to survive an economic downturn.
While banks will likely keep the lights on and the employees paid, a bank may be less likely to allow owner draws during period of non-payment of loans. Accordingly, review your own access to cash, necessity of expenses and plan accordingly for your own line of credit, or liquidation of assets in orderly fashion.
YOUR TRUSTED BUSINESS LAW ADVISOR
Addair Thurston, Chtd. understands your need for counsel. We think like business people, because our business law attorneys were first trained in business. We own businesses, manage businesses and have spent decades facing challenges alongside our clients who become family.
During this period, our job has not changed. We will consult with you in your toughest decisions and greatest opportunities. This may involve employee policies and communications to clients or employees regarding risks, funding sources during the downturn, owner disputes, employee matters, and inevitably, litigation. Allow us to walk with you through this uncertain time to guide you in efforts to reduce risks and provide resources.
You can learn more about how we can help your business thrive by visiting our Business Solutions page.
SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION TODAY
We will get through this together. Not unscathed, but resolved. Our clients are our family, as such know are here to help in your biggest worries and biggest opportunities under our oath of confidentiality and commitment.
While we normally meet in person, during the COVID-19 period we meet with you by zoom video conference call or by phone. Let’s start the process today.