Human Resources Consultant, Outsourcing & Services

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Dealing with Employees' Reluctance and Fear

As business owners move forward in COVID-19, businesses are struggling with how to deal with fearful and reluctant returning employees.Here are some tips our HR consultants are sharing with businesses in these challenging times on four different kinds of reluctant returners.

1. Fearful employees

Find out why they are fearful to determine if they may have a valid qualified COVID-19 reason. Carefully ask questions with empathy.

Share detailed safety protocols and assure them you are using best practices.

Is there a particular process that is bothering the employee, be sure every danger is mitigated and strengthen protocols if needed.

Consider creative options that would allow them to work and feel more safe. Can you isolate them from customer contact, remote work, alternate hours?

You are not required to pay employees who won't return to work if they are fearful and it is not a eligible reason for unemployment.

However, you can be more generous. Consider unpaid leave of absence, available PTO or borrow against future PTO, but be mindful you may have to do this for all your employees who request it.


2. For COVID19 reason

Share symptoms of COVID-19 with all employees and ask if they have had any symptoms. If they have had symptoms, they should stay home for 14 days and consult with their doctor.

If doctor advises that they or someone they care for should self quarantine due to high risk, they should stay home.

Don’t compel these employees to return without a doctor’s release

You cannot inquire about underlying conditions.

You cannot require someone to stay home if you perceive they are high risk, but encourage them to seek medical advice and share with policies regarding people staying home when sick, exposed, or at risk and payments they will receive in those situations.


3. For childcare reason.

If your employee cannot return to work:

Explore the reasons/solutions considered. Carefully ask questions with empathy. Help them to think through all their options.

Consider creative options - working remotely, intermitted leave, different hours

If no alternative, they may be eligible for Expanded FMLA leave:

Unpaid for the first 10 days of leave

May use accrued PTO during this time.

After two weeks two-thirds of an employee’s regular pay rate for regular hours.

Not exceed $200 per day/$10,000 in total, or $12,000 in total if using emergency paid sick leave for the first two weeks.


4. Wish to stay on unemployment

Find out why - to determine if they have a valid qualified COVID-19 reason. Carefully ask questions with empathy. 

Report Unemployment on behalf of the employee and report to DES when recalled

Notify employee in writing

Report to work date

Looking forward to having them back

Penalties of fraud/unemployment will be impacted

Protocols to ensure their safety

Move onto hire someone who is willing to work

Consult an HR professional as there is a perfect storm of mandates and compliance that could be applicable.

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