Food For Thought Friday: Employee Retention and Attracting New Talent

Our hopes with this Friday post is to tantalize a different aspect of our business brains! We’re pulling together a few interesting pointers on employee retention and attracting new talent.

Small businesses continue struggling to retain and attract team members. Did COVID really unleash a population of, “I don’t really want to work!”? Quite possibly, but here are some thoughts on how to incentivize your assets, your work force.

One size NEVER fits all, tailor benefits offerings in a way that attracts and retains the best employees. Start this process is by surveying existing and potential employees. Ask your team what types of benefits would interest them the most. Use this data to make better benefits decisions. Business owners put substantial energy and time into these plans, why not create Boutique Style and customize a plan that excites your employees!

While each workforce will have unique needs and interests, there are some commonalities seen among small business employees. Here are six of the most popular benefits that small businesses are using to attract and retain employees.

First Up is the dreaded but, “Oh So Necessary” Health Care Coverage. Good health coverage is important but also expensive! This will likely be an important benefit to your employees with families or those further along in their years of experience. Some employees need a plan to cover same sex spouses. Consider doubling down on health coverage rather than picking up expenses for ancillary benefits that may not be of interest to the majority of your team. Going to work every day knowing that your employer cares about your health and the health of those important to you could be a game changer in the candidate pool.

Leave benefits vary by workplace, but typically include paid time off (PTO), vacation days and sick time. These types of leave usually come with specific use requirements. For employers looking to attract and retain employees, expanding these benefits could be a great leverage tool. This may include allowing faster PTO accrual, providing more sick days or allowing for flexible scheduling. Implement a remote work policy for those employees that can handle it. Let them know that they have earned your trust and are valued enough to allow them to work efficiently and effectively at home.

The third incentive on our list is the always exciting, Performance Bonus. Employees want to be recognized for their hard work. Failing to do so can lower morale and affect retention. Introducing performance bonuses as an employee benefit can be a way to combat this. Performance bonuses will vary, but the general idea is to compensate employees in some way for a job well done. How this looks in practice will depend on the employer. For instance, employees might receive incentives such as gift cards, cash, additional PTO or other perks, depending on their achievement. However, before implementing such bonuses, employers should ensure compliance with any applicable workplace laws regarding employee compensation.

Financial security is very important to employees, and that sentiment grows as employees near retirement age. It’s also top of mind for those struggling financially thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees invest their time and energy into their work. As a tradeoff, many employees want their employers to invest in their retirements in return for years of service. Offering a 401(k) with contribution matching can be a powerful attraction and retention tool, as it demonstrates an employer’s investment in their workers in the long term. 

Surveys suggest employees have been putting off job changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning a wave of turnover may be coming soon. Employers may want to think proactively about ways to keep employees around. In other words, when it comes to top performers, employers should be reluctant to let these employees go. That’s where professional development comes in. YES! Some employees are driven by more than just compensation! Generally, this involves cross-training employees on other positions or otherwise preparing them to take on additional responsibilities. This helps provide the employee with more growth opportunities while still keeping them within the business. Offering such development opportunities also signals to prospective employees that a workplace has upward mobility and is willing to help workers along with their career goals—two factors that can weigh heavily in recruiting conversations. This one will actually work well for your business; cross-training provides security in your foundation and non reliance on any one individual for any one function.

Last up! Wellness is a hot topic these days, and employees are looking more and more for employers who take wellness seriously. This can be especially true in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where health consequences are interwoven with everyday decisions. In fact, through the lens of the pandemic, ignoring wellness initiatives may be interpreted as ignoring overall health—something employers obviously want to avoid.  

Different workplaces will offer different wellness benefits, but the purpose of any of them is generally to increase employees’ overall well-being. For instance, benefits may include mental health counseling, healthy breakroom snacks, gym memberships, fitness trackers, yoga sessions or other perks. When it comes down to it, employees want to feel like their employers care about them as individuals. This means prioritizing well-being.

Remember, you do not need to implement all of these suggestions. Survey your team, understand what is important to them, contact your benefits provider or PEO and start customizing your benefits package.

Thinking about a PEO and how your small business can benefit, Libertate Insurance can help.

The Risk with Search Engines

It’s no secret that your technology company depends on the capabilities of your computer systems to function. You should be aware that simple actions your employees take could be putting your company’s equipment and networks at risk of cyber-crime, including cyber-attacks, cyber theft and other computer security incidents. The average cost of a single cyber-attack is incalculable—cyber-attacks can directly target finances and ruin a business’ reputation. Your business is at stake, and you should do everything you can to protect yourself.


The Risks of Web Searches

As an employer, you should educate your employees about searching for certain topics on the internet due to the risk of coming across websites encrypted with viruses or malware that could be detrimental to your computer systems. Stress that the potential for cybercrime could affect employees individually as well as the business as a whole. More than 90 percent of companies surveyed by the DOJ incurred either monetary loss, system downtime loss or both because of cybercrime, so take it upon yourself to put search engine guidelines in place.


The Web’s Most Dangerous Search Terms

Common term searches conducted online one can expose your business to the risk of cyber-crime. Encourage employees to avoid following suspicious results in search engines. Any result that promises free products or materials is suspect. The least risky search terms are usually health-related topics and searches about economic news. It is essential to remember that the number of dangerous search terms is ever changing. Hackers want to impact

the highest amount of people with the least amount of effort, so they aim for popular search terms most. Ill-intentioned hackers also adapt quickly to the fast-paced nature of the internet and the public circle, so oftentimes social or celebrity events popular at a given moment climb quickly to the top of the internet’s most dangerous search terms and are a high risk for infecting your company’s computers. According to the DOJ, industries considered a part of critical infrastructure businesses account for a


Simple actions your employees take could put your company’s equipment and networks at risk of cyber-crime, including cyber-attack, cyber theft and other computer security incidents.


disproportionate amount of computer security incidents. If your company is in any of these industries, be especially careful about internet searches to ensure computer safety and protect against potentially devastating loss, both monetary and in down time:

  • Agriculture
  • Chemical and drug manufacturing
  • Computer system design
  • Finance
  • Health care
  • Internet service providers
  • Petroleum mining and manufacturing
  • Publications/broadcasting
  • Real estate
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation and pipelines

Take Precautions to Protect Your Business


There are examples of companies and organizations around the globe that had to shut down operations to address a large-scale virus or other malware issue. These problems can affect both large and small businesses and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. Avoid putting yourself at risk by doing the following:

  • Enact a stricter internet use policy
  • Put more strict website blockers or filters in place
  • Educate employees about the hazards that risky search engine exploration can present

Some of these solutions may cost you in the short run but lowering your risk will ultimately save your company in potential identity fraud, monetary cyber theft or informational cyber theft in the future.

Managing COVID-19 Employment Practice-Related Exposure

We found this article, made available by Insurance Journal, most informative. The original content can be accessed by clicking here.

This post is part of a series sponsored by The Hanover Insurance Group.

As the pandemic continues, we’re seeing new COVID-19-related regulations, restrictions and advisories issued and adjusted by federal, state, and local officials on a regular basis. Each jurisdiction can create and enforce its own laws, leaving many employers faced with varying—and at times conflicting—orders and guidance. This creates a decision point for employers. Which should they follow? And, how can that decision impact their business?

From decisions about workplace safety, such as personal protective equipment, visitor policies and vaccine requirements, to handling work-from-home, family, and medical leave requests, there are a lot of business issues to sort through and a great deal of exposure, which could leave them open to the threat of an employment-related lawsuit. As trusted advisers to these businesses, independent agents can help guide their clients through the maze of regulations and guidance, sharing thoughtful risk management practices and key coverages to evaluate.

Growing threat of litigation

More than 2,000 COVID-related employment lawsuits have been filed already, and the number is expected to grow as businesses respond to ever-evolving circumstances. Business leaders can prepare by educating themselves and seeking out resources and guidance to navigate health, safety, and economic issues. Whether it’s subsequent waves, a change of jurisdictional guidance and/or regulations, or the availability of a vaccine, forward -thinking leaders will be well prepared to understand the options and their impact and make informed, proactive decisions.

With the pandemic, employers should be especially mindful of the following types of employment practice claims:

  • Workplace safety: Allegations of failure to provide a safe working environment
  • Discrimination: Allegations of age and disability bias in employment termination
  • Wage and hour: Allegations of failure to pay non-exempt employees for remote work or time spent completing employer-mandated COVID-19-realted health and safety activities, such as daily screenings
  • Retaliation: Allegations of retribution for complaints about workplace safety or use of medical leave

Thoughtful risk management

With questions like ‘can employees be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine?’, ‘how do we manage continued work-from-home requests?’, ‘what accommodations should be made for employees with disabilities?’, and ‘how do we address employees’ workplace safety concerns?’, it can be difficult for businesses to know where to start. Independent agents can play an important role in helping their clients think critically about their risks and take proactive steps. Similarly, top insurance carriers understand this, and have acted to provide employers with guidance and services that can help them minimize the risk of litigation.

For example, The Hanover has negotiated agreements with leading labor and employment practices firms to offer a range of services to Hanover policyholders that can help reduce the risk of employment practice lawsuits related to COVID-19. These value-added services are offered to policyholders no cost, or at a significant discount, such as:

Holistic insurance solution

  • COVID-19 return-to-work guide, including a robust testing and screening guide, sample policy language and detailed guidance on workplace safety, disability accommodations, and more
  • Family First Coronavirus Response Act compliance assistance, including sample policies, template forms, a flowchart for managing requests and attorney consultation
  • COVID-19 online training module for employees on personal hygiene practices and more
  • A COVID-19 customer information center with key information from the CDC, EEOPC, and state-specific resources

Beyond risk management, agents can help their clients by partnering with insurance carriers that offer employment practices liability insurance that can be tailored to the needs of each business.

As businesses wonder if they have adequate insurance protection, agents can help them understand their coverage and identify possible risk areas by considering these three important factors:

  1. Definitions: As agents know, not all definitions are created equal. Carefully assess definitions of wrongful acts to ensure a business’s unique risks are covered.
  2. Who to cover: Ensure coverage applies to the acts of all individuals who work at the organization. For example, does the business use contractors?
  3. Key coverage provisions: These should include punitive damages where insurable, and coverage for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or state equivalent proceedings.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, employers face increasing risks from employment-related lawsuits. Fortunately, agents can play an important role in guiding their business clients to risk management practices and coverages that help best protect their operations, their interests, and their employees.

Disruption in the Marketplace

This post utilized content from Property Casualty 360’s Heather Turner & PRNewswire.

On January 4th, 2021 PRNewswire announced Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY) acquisition of the Staffing Insurance Business offered by Worldwide Specialty Programs, Inc. The transaction closed on December 31, 2020 complimenting PHLY’s broad suite of specialty services. PHLY markets and underwrites commercial property/casualty & professional liability insurance products. PHLY has an “A++” (Superior) rating by AM Best Company.

We anticipated the post-acquisition news being focused on PHLY’s delivery of industry-specific services to the temporary staffing space. Similarly, we are committed to a different industry niche, the Professional Employer Organization (PEO). We remain hopeful that PHLY will continue to support PEO, just as World-Wide has done for many years.

Entering the 2nd Quarter of 2021, uncertainty has become part of our new normal. In a recent article, Property Casualty 360 discussed fluctuation within the marketplace (4th Quarter 2020 – 1st Quarter 2021). Pre-COVID validated the firming of the marketplace. The initial impact increased underwriting scrutiny, rate increases, higher retentions, jurisdictional scrutiny and capacity reduction. As a result of COVID-19 related case uncertainty, higher than normal judgements, and developing CAT losses, there has been a continual hardening of the market. We expect rate increases, lowering capacity, limiting or transferring risk, and insurers scrutinization of risk profiles.

In conclusion, industry and marketplace changes or shifts have always been and will continue to be.  As the industry constricts, options, terms and conditions tend to constrict with it.  Your upcoming casualty lines renewal may look different, and we highly recommend staying out in front of it.

With that being said, contact Libertate Insurance Services for all your PEO-related insurance needs by emailing us here.

Managing COVID-19 Vaccine Policies

THIS ARTICLE IS BEING REPOSTED BY LIBERTATE INSURANCES JAMES BUSCARINI. THE ORIGINAL CONTENT WAS WRITTEN IN THE FEBRUARY 2021 EDITION OF RISK MANAGEMENT MAGAZINE. ARTICLE WRITTEN BY JODY MCLEOD, ESQUIRE AND GARY PEARCE

As COVID-19 vaccines become more available and companies return to the office, employers may want to protect their workforce by mandating vaccinations. However, it is essential that they keep in mind certain risks and how to mitigate them, including the legal limits of what they can ask of employees.

When approaching mandatory vaccinations for workers, the legal rules are reasonably established. Employers can mandate vaccinations as long as they have processes to deal with exceptions. The key exceptions concern medical disabilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and bona fide religious objections covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Because a vaccination is not a medical examination, it does not inherently trigger certain aspects of the ADA.  But beware of violating ADA obligations in the course of asking pre-screening questions or securing proof of vaccinations. Unvaccinated employees—particularly those who refuse or are unable to take a vaccine for medical or religious reasons—may be excluded from the workplace if they pose a direct threat, subject to ADA and Title VII ­obligations to pursue a reasonable accommodation. The ADA accommodation standard is somewhat more favorable to the employee than the Title VII standard. Determining whether an unvaccinated employee poses a direct threat requires a fact-specific determination, considering the duration of risk, the nature and severity of potential harm, and the likelihood and imminence of potential harm.

Excluding an employee from a workplace because they pose a direct threat does not automatically mean termination is justified. The employer first needs to determine whether there is a feasible alternative arrangement that would not impose undue hardship, such as remote work. There remains a general duty under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards, and COVID-19 exposure will typically qualify. Of course, organizations that expose the general public to COVID-19 risk being sued.

If a company imposes a vaccination mandate, it must consistently administer exception processes regarding reasonable medical accommodations and religious objections.  It will need to understand what constitutes business necessity, and must be able to identify reasonable accommodations on a fact-specific, individualized basis. The company will need to decide whether to assume the risks and obligations arising from self-administering vaccinations, or instead depend on collecting evidence of third-party administration. Lastly, it will need to minimize the prevalence of medical inquiries—including medical details unexpectedly proffered by the employee—and preserve the confidentiality of any protected information that may thereby be received.

Other potential issues include whether there is a union contract that the company must consider, or whether any state or local laws forbid mandatory vaccination policies.  

Risks of Vaccination Mandates

If an employer requires vaccinations, it must administer the mandate consistently and consider whether the additional risk is justified. If the employer imposes the mandate for only certain categories (e.g., for customer-facing staff but not home-based workers), it will need a rational basis for its determinations. Also, a mandate could bring any adverse reactions into the realm of compensability for workers compensation, and time spent receiving a mandatory vaccine is most likely compensable for purposes of wage and hour compliance. Data privacy and retention of medical records also need to be considered in the record-keeping process as the relevant regulations and laws are quite demanding. If the company provides financial incentives to encourage compliance, income may need to be reported and taxes owed as well.

Changing and Varying Rules

It was not until December 2020 that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued substantial additional guidance regarding COVID-19 obligations under prominent employment laws. As of this writing, OSHA has yet to issue any rules specific to COVID-19, but the Biden administration is expected to issue a broad rule in the coming months. States and municipalities issue executive orders and ordinances at a pace that only specialists can keep up with. Even if all the written rules are known, there is no assurance that they will be administered in alignment with what governed parties might expect. “Guidance” may become a de-facto obligation.

For all these reasons, companies cannot base their protection and recovery program solely on compliance with current legal requirements. Nor can a static “one and done” determination be sufficient. In light of all these issues, duties and uncertainties, companies should determine whether a vaccine mandate is an effective use of their administrative resources.

Business Expectations

Requiring vaccinations does not mean employers can forego the rest of their COVID-19 management protocol. Employers need to keep in mind that there is no proof that vaccinated people cannot transmit the virus to others, the vaccination seems likely to be less than 100% effective, and some people either will be unable to get the vaccine or at least will not yet have received it. Worry about a new pandemic episode will persist for years.

Many employees likely regard safety as the highest organizational priority and will look to their employer to provide reliable information about COVID-19 risk management. Failure by the organization to respect these new expectations could trigger negative social media reactions, unwanted attention from plaintiffs’ attorneys, and difficulty attracting and retaining valuable talent. While this may be a threat to some managers, it is an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen the bond of trust between employee and employer. 

As a practical matter, legal regulations tend to react to changing circumstances.  This makes it likely that any rescinding of temporary standards will occur in a somewhat tardy fashion. To date, the volume of litigation related to COVID-19 has been less than feared. However, do not take too much comfort in this. Courts have been shut down, causal connections are likely to be better understood as experience accumulates, and plaintiffs’ attorneys may surmise that juries will be more sympathetic after the worst of the crisis has passed. 

Employees Who Refuse

Surveys show that a significant portion of the population would choose not to take a COVID-19 vaccine. Some may eventually be persuaded, while others have deeper objections. Some may be uncomfortable as long as deployment is under emergency use authorizations. This unease reinforces the need to be collaborative in pandemic management and transition planning, and to communicate the reasoning behind critical decisions or policies.

The entire workforce will never agree on how best to emerge from the pandemic. Although communication is important and stakeholder feedback is necessary, securing unanimity is unrealistic. On the other hand, if a significant number of workers refuse to accept a vaccine, even in the face of an employer mandate, is the organization prepared to redeploy or replace these workers?

There is no risk-free path to a post-COVID environment. Employers must continuously assess conditions and be prepared to act promptly despite incomplete information, changing circumstances and inherent uncertainties.

The New Normal….Pandemic Insurance Products

It was only a matter of time before insurers began to develop products to cover pandemics.  The products range from traffic monitor apps that pay insureds based on a minimum threshold to relapse coverage that protects businesses forced to shut down a second time.  The complete article from Reuters is below.

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Insurers are creating products for a world where virus outbreaks could become the new normal after many businesses were left out in the cold during the COVID-19 crisis.

While new pandemic-proof policies might not be cheap, they offer businesses from restaurants to film production companies to e-commerce retailers ways of insuring against disruptions and losses if another virus strikes.

The providers include big insurers and brokers adding new products to existing coverage, as well as niche players that see an opportunity in filling the void left by mainstream firms that categorize virus outbreaks like wars or nuclear explosions.

Tech firm Machine Cover, for example, aims to offer policies next year that would give relief during lockdowns. Using apps and other data sources, the Boston-based company measures traffic levels around businesses such as restaurants, department stores, hairdressers and car dealers.

If traffic drops below a certain level, it pays out, whatever the reason.

“This is the type of coverage which … businesses thought they had paid for when they bought their current business interruption policies before the coronavirus pandemic,” the company’s founder Inder-Jeet Gujral told Reuters.

“I believe this will be a major opportunity because post-COVID, it would be as irresponsible to not buy insurance against pandemics as it would be to not buy insurance against fire.”

The company is backed by insurer Hiscox and individual investors, mostly from the insurance and private equity world.

Restaurants in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, where Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Monday ordered dining to shut down soon after reopening, are now reeling, said Andrew Giambarba, a broker for Insurance Office of America in Doral, Florida.

“It’s been like they made it to the ninth round of the fight and were holding on when this punch came out of nowhere,” said Giambarba, whose clients include restaurants that did not get payouts under their business interruption coverage.

“Every niche that is dealing with insurance that is affected by business interruption needs every new product they can have.”

Filling the Void

Pandemic exemptions have helped some insurers emerge relatively unscathed and the sector has largely resisted pressure to provide more virus cover. Indeed, some insurers that paid out for event cancellations and other losses have removed pandemics from their coverage.

British risk managers association Airmic said last week that the pandemic had contributed to a lack of adequate insurance at an affordable price and most of its members were looking at other ways to reduce risk.

To help fill the void in a locked-down world, Lloyd’s of London insurer Beazley Plc, started selling a contingency policy last month to insure organizers of streamed music, cultural and business events against technical glitches.

“These events are completely reliant on the technology working and a failure can be financially crippling,” said Mark Symons, contingency underwriter at Beazley.

Marsh, the world’s biggest insurance broker, has teamed up with AXA XL, part of France’s AXA, and data firm Arity, which is part of Allstate, to help businesses such as U.S. supermarket chains, restaurants and e-commerce retailers cope with the challenges of social distancing.

With home deliveries surging, firms have hired individual drivers to meet demand, but commercial auto liability insurance for “gig” contractors with their own vehicles is hard to find.

Marsh and its partners devised a policy based on usage with a price-by-mile insurance, which can be cheaper than typical commercial auto cover as delivering a pizza doesn’t have the same risks as driving people around.

“Even when the pandemic is over, we believe last-mile delivery will continue to grow,” said Robert Bauer, head of Marsh’s U.S. sharing economy and mobility practice.

A report by consultants Capgemini showed that demand for usage-based insurance has skyrocketed since COVID-19 first broke out and more than 50% of the customers it surveyed wanted it.

However, only half of the insurers interviewed by Capgemini for its World Insurance Report said they offered it.

Bespoke Cover

Since businesses are only now learning how outbreaks can affect them, some new products are effectively custom-made.

Elite Risk Insurance in Newport Beach, California, has been offering “COVID outbreak relapse coverage” since May for businesses forced to shut down a second time, its founder Jeff Kleid said.

The policies are crafted around specific businesses and only pay out when certain conditions are met, Kleid said.

For film and television production companies that could be when a cast member contracts the virus, forcing them to stop shooting. Another client, which raises livestock for restaurants, is covered for a scenario in which it would be impossible to get animal feed.

Such policies do not come cheap. A $1 million policy could cost between about $80,000 to $100,000 depending on the terms.

“The insurance … is costly because it covers a risk that does not have a historical basis for calculating the price,” Kleid says.

And in March, when COVID-19 ravaged northern Italy, Generali’s Europ Assistance offered medical help, financial support and teleconsultations for sufferers when discharged from hospital, on top of regular health insurance.

It sold 1.5 million policies in just two weeks and now has 3 million customers in Europe and United States.

Some insurers are also working on changes to employee compensation and health insurance schemes. With millions of workers not expected to return to offices anytime soon, some large insurers in Asia are preparing coverage to account for that, according to people familiar with those efforts.

At least one Japanese insurer has started work on a product to cover employees for injury while working at home, they said.

“Working from home will be the new normal for years to come. That would make the scope of the employee compensation scheme meaningless if a person suffers an injury while at home,” said a Hong Kong-based senior executive at a European insurer.

(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru, Suzanne Barlyn in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania, Carolyn Cohn in London and Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong; additional reporting by Muvija M; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and David Clarke)

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2020/07/10/575081.htm

 

WCIRB Releases Cost Evaluation of Conclusive COVID-19 Presumption

See below from the WCIRB regarding the projected cost of COVID-19 claims to be filed by ‘Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers’….At the low end, if only 4.8% of California ECI workers file claims related to COVID-19, the cost to the system will be an astounding $2.2B!

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WCIRB Releases Cost Evaluation of Conclusive COVID-19 Presumption

Oakland CA, April 20, 2020 – The Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB) released its Cost Evaluation of Potential Conclusive COVID-19 Presumption in California Workers’ Compensation. The evaluation was completed in response to an April 8, 2020 request from the California State Assembly Insurance Committee to assess the impact of a conclusive presumption that COVID-19 claims arising from certain front line workers are presumed to be work-related. Specifically, the WCIRB was requested to provide the cost impact of a conclusive COVID-19 presumption for health care workers, firefighters, EMS and rescue employees, front line law enforcement officers and other essential critical infrastructure (ECI) employees.

The WCIRB estimates that the annual cost of COVID-19 claims on ECI workers under a conclusive presumption ranges from $2.2 billion to $33.6 billion with an approximate mid-range estimate of $11.2 billion, or 61 percent of the annual estimated cost of the total workers’ compensation system prior to the impact of the pandemic. The WCIRB noted that in developing this estimate it did not include a provision for non-ECI workers who may file a compensable workers’ compensation COVID-19 claim, nor did it adjust for the COVID-19 claims of ECI workers that may be compensable in the absence of a conclusive presumption.

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This and other important workers’ compensation topics will be discussed tomorrow during part 2 of NAPEO’s Coronavirus Updates webinar where our very own, Paul Hughes, will share his thoughts.  Click here for registration details.

 

Large Companies Tweaking Sick Leave Policies as the Coronavirus Spreads

Walmart, Uber and Others Tweak Sick-Leave Policies as Coronavirus Spreads

The companies, and other businesses, like Instacart, have also said they would compensate workers who contract the virus or are subject to quarantine orders.

Walmart, Uber and other major companies announced new policies this week to grant paid leave or other compensation to workers who contract the new coronavirus or are quarantined by order of the government or their companies.

The changes could help hourly and gig-economy workers in the service industry who do not normally receive paid time off, and who would bear an especially difficult burden of lost wages. But the policies may not go far enough to protect delivery people, store clerks, restaurant workers, taxi drivers and others whose public-facing and often low-paying jobs cannot be done remotely.

Walmart, the largest private employer in the country with 1.5 million workers, said on Tuesday that employees who contract the virus or who are subject to mandatory quarantines would receive up to two weeks of pay, and that absences in that time would not “count against attendance.”

Two weeks is generally the length of time that health experts recommend for quarantine or self-isolation. Workers who are infected and need more time to recover may be compensated for up to 26 weeks, the statement said. It added that workers who were not sick or quarantined, but who were uncomfortable reporting for work during the outbreak, would not be penalized.

Ride-hailing companies, whose drivers are generally classified as independent contractors and do not receive paid time off, offered few details about the compensation they promised to drivers affected by the coronavirus.

Uber said that drivers or delivery people who learn they have Covid-19 or who are asked to self-isolate by a public health authority “will receive financial assistance for up to 14 days while their account is on hold.” Lyft said that it would “provide funds” to drivers who are infected or placed under a quarantine.

The announcements came after calls from lawmakers and labor groups for companies to take action to ensure their workers’ health and safety — and after the first cases of coronavirus in workers for Walmart and Uber. (The Walmart employee worked at a store in Cynthia, Ky., and the company said she was recovering. The Uber driver, in New York City, was hospitalized.)

Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and other chain restaurants, also announced this week that all hourly employees would receive permanent paid sick leave benefits. Sick leave will accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, the company said in an email.

The company had previously opposed sick leave for its workers, and the announcement followed an article by the journalist Judd Legum published on Monday. Rich Jeffers, a company spokesman, said the new policy had been in the works before the outbreak, but that it was expedited “given the current environment.”

Instacart, which delivers groceries and other household items to customers through an app, announced this week that it was expanding its accrued-sick-time policy to all its part-time employees in North America. The company had previously offered sick pay in only some states. Instacart said it would also provide up to 14 days of pay to employees with diagnosed cases of Covid-19 or who are placed in quarantine.

Service industry workers, of course, are making it possible for other Americans to stock up on groceries or get deliveries as they stay home. Health experts say that preventing people who contract the virus from continuing to work is key to preventing widespread community transmission.

“Low-wage, hourly workers are already at greater risk of poor health because of their pre-existing condition of economic instability,” said Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health.

“It is essential that our response to Covid-19 keeps a focus on the health of marginalized, vulnerable populations,” he continued. “By providing them with the necessary resources to be well — paid sick leave, etc. — we are not just supporting their health, we are supporting the health of whole populations.”

The specter of the new coronavirus has also spurred a renewed push for federally mandated paid sick leave. The United States is an outlier among rich countries for not requiring employers to provide it.

Democrats are promoting a new version of a bill that has been stalled in Congress for years — and trying to expand it to add 14 days of immediately accessible paid sick leave in the case of a public health emergency. Federal officials have also discussed a payroll tax cut and small business loans.

The A.F.L.-C.I.O. called on officials to act immediately to shore up resources for workers during the outbreak, including paid sick leave.

“This is a public health crisis that demands strong and decisive action,” said William Samuel, the federation’s director of government affairs.