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Survey Reveals Top Employer Concerns During COVID-19

Survey Reveals Top Employer Concerns During COVID-19

March 31, 2020
Employers are trying to figure out how to handle employees who cannot perform their jobs remotely and those who must care for children out of school or others who are sick.

Trying to decide whether to pay employees during absences related to COVID-19, was a top concern

( 89%) of respondents to a survey conducted by Littler, an employment law practice.

The report, COVID-19 Flash Survey Report was completed by more than 900 employers based in North America and with operations around the world.  

The report was completed by mainly HR professionals (54%) and in-house counsel (38%), between March 12 and March 25. Companies represented were of a variety of sizes and nearly all (98%) operate in the U.S., with a fair portion also operating in Canada (26%), Europe (26%), Asia (20%) and Mexico (16 percent), among other regions.

“COVID-19 has created a host of challenges for employers while accelerating fundamental shifts already underway in the workplace,” said Alka Ramchandani-Raj, a leader of Littler’s COVID-19 Task Force. “As the pandemic’s many lasting implications only begin to emerge, it’s encouraging that employers are moving quickly to take a range of actions in response to this rapidly evolving situation.”

 Leave and Sick Pay

 In addition to the concern over how to handle absences, 85% reported adjusting their sick-leave policies or providing additional paid time off, or were considering taking these actions.

 A common theme expressed by respondents related to how to handle employees who cannot perform their jobs remotely and those who must care for children out of school or others who are sick.

 “Companies already facing a patchwork of employee leave laws must now also comply with requirements to provide additional paid leave from measures passed in response to the pandemic,” said Melissa Peters, a leader of Littler’s COVID-19 Task Force. “ And many companies are implementing new policies and benefits to support employees during this difficult time. The current regulatory environment and the novel nature of this virus give rise to several complex and nuanced questions about how to manage leaves of absence entitlements triggered by COVID-19.”

 Employee Safety and Morale

 The majority of respondents (93%) are worried about ensuring that workplace conditions and policies comply with applicable safety and health regulations.

 The most common steps taken in response were communicating hygiene practices and prevention measures (98%), restricting travel (83%) and canceling meetings (78%). Several survey respondents also said they were grappling with how to address employee anxiety and how to find the right balance in responding appropriately without panicking employees.

 Additional Concerns and Actions Taken

  • The need to temporarily close offices, factories or stores if an employee or customer tests positive for the virus ranked as the top worry among respondents with 96% expressing concern. 
  • Only 5% reported that their companies had implemented furloughs or short-term layoffs and another 43% were considering it. However, many U.S.-based respondents took the survey in mid-March before record-high unemployment claims were reported by the U.S. Department of Labor. 
  • Most respondents (83%) noted concern about inadvertently discriminating against members of a protected class or giving rise to discrimination claims in their COVID-19 response. However, avoiding discrimination against employees ranked lowest among employers’ concerns, with 17% reporting not being concerned at all. 

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