Going Back to Work After COVID
After more than a year of drastic changes, employers can finally expect to see things shifting around for the better. As more Americans receive the vaccine and infection numbers start to slow, restrictions are relaxing. Employers still need to stay alert, though, as things begin to open back up so that they can make the best decisions for their companies and their employees.
2020 brought us a record 17.7% unemployment, the highest since the Great Depression. Many people have been relying on unemployment benefits to get through. However, in 2021, various states have begun ending those unemployment benefits. This means that the market is about to see a large influx of job seekers.
While this can be good news for employers, they should also be aware of the amount of work that will accompany the hiring process. Now, more than ever, employers will need reliable background checks to help narrow the field of applicants. Employers should be looking to fill gaps for the long term, and finding the best prospective employee from such a large applicant pool will be challenging. To get ahead of the curve, employers should have their background check procedure ready and waiting for the surge.
Experts warn that, since we are still living through an unprecedented situation, recovery may be slow. The end of unemployment benefits is just one anticipated factor for the job market and hiring in the coming months and years.
Because COVID-19 is a pandemic, its effects are global. One country vaccinating the majority of its population does not mean that the virus is over. Experts caution that we will be feeling the effects of the virus for years to come. Employers will have to continue to be flexible and adapt to changing guidelines, but they can help themselves out by making plans to get ahead of forecast trends.
Employers also need to consider the way forward in the face of the new CDC guidance of May 2021 regarding mask-wearing. In response to the CDC’s changing guidelines, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws were updated on May 28.
Employers are not prevented from requiring employees to be vaccinated before physically entering the workspace, as long as the policy is in compliance under Title VII and allows reasonable accommodations for ADA, religious factors, and pregnancy. Employers need to decide what company policy will be, moving forward, and communicate that to all employees. These need to be clear and enforceable, and some employees might push back against these changes.
Employees have also been greenlit to offer incentives for vaccination and to require employees to provide proof of vaccination. All such information must be kept confidential under law. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prevents employers from also requesting medical or genetic information along with vaccination information. Again, employers need to carefully consider their new policies and make them clear to all employees.
Employers who have made many changes over the past sixteen months have already proven themselves to be resilient and flexible. While we’re finally getting on top of the virus, more changes are bound to come. By paying attention to the experts and anticipated trends in both global health and employment, employers can position themselves to be effective while protecting their employees and their company.