It’s supposed to snow Friday here in Connecticut.
For those of us with memories, we all remember the last time we got substantial snowfall in October in 2011. It ended with lots of power outages and many downed trees. So let’s first hope the snow is just more nuisance than anything else.
Far more nefariously, this week has also brought something else — the return and quick rise of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The numbers released by the state are sobering. High positivity rates that we haven’t seen in many months. Hospitalizations now numbering in the hundreds. And over 500 new cases a day. Red alerts popping up in nearly 20 towns and cities.
And did I mention that this latest wave isn’t even expected to peak until January?
And the new extended travel quarantine that now includes our neighboring state of Massachusetts?
So for employers, there are going to be new challenges in the days ahead. It’s hard to grasp them in their totality but unlike March, we now know a lot more legally than we did and we have sector rules still in place that will apply.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- The state still has a Shared Work program to take advantage of. Instead of furloughing employees entirely, those workforces that need to have some employees cut back on their hours can use this program to still pay employees some salary while they also get benefits from the state. I did a big deep dive on this back in April. Take a look because it takes some time to get up to speed.
- Emergency Paid Sick Leave and FMLA+ are still applicable to employers with less than 500 employees through at least the end of the year. (Do not be surprised to see this extended in the lame-duck session after the election.) With more employees (and their family members) getting sick, expect to see more and more of these requests.
- Sector Rules are current in Phase 3, though towns in a “red alert” can roll them back to Phase Two. While the Governor has indicated that he will be reluctant to roll back the restrictions further, the pandemic may have other ideas. In the interim, employers ought to revisit who is truly “essential” to the workplace to make sure that workplace safety is a top priority. Community spread is one thing; workplace spread will have far greater ramifications. And remember the rules in place for offices still state the following: Those who can work from home should continue to do so.
- The travel quarantine rules are getting even harder to address. Adding Massachusetts to the list for the first time is bound to add yet another layer to things. Those CT employees who travel to Massachusetts for work are fine for a day – but spend overnight and things get complicated. Make sure you and your workforce understand the rules.
The next few months may prove to be the most challenging of the last year. COVID fatigue is real and the thought of being stuck inside for most of the winter is just downright depressing. Employers must remind employees to stay vigilant and safe.
And just for good measure, be sure you are also following the rules for CT Paid Leave. The deadline for businesses to register has been extended to November 23rd from November 1.