Louisiana’s stay-at-home order is set to expire on Thursday, April 30, 2020. Whether the order will be extended remains to be seen. Indeed, some municipalities, including the City of New Orleans, have already extended the stay-at-home directive until mid-May. Regardless of when the order is lifted, however, Louisiana businesses should begin planning now for transitioning back to work to ensure that the transition is both safe and efficient. Here are a few considerations as Louisiana businesses return to work:
- Ensure that your business is maintaining a safe work environment
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”), employers are required to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized health hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In light of COVID-19, employers should implement basic infection prevent measures to both prevent the spread of COVID-19. These measures should include, at a minimum, basic hygiene and infection control practices, such as frequent and thorough hand washing and social distancing. Employers should also develop policies and procedures for the prompt identification and isolation of sick people, if appropriate. As always, you should encourage employees to stay home if they are sick and until they have fully recovered.
- Be prepared to comply with new government regulations or mandates
Businesses should be prepared to comply with any future government regulations or mandates concerning their business activities. Several authorities have cautioned that businesses and daily life will not automatically return to normal. Instead, it will be a slow, gradual process, with some businesses having to implement new safeguards. For example, restaurants may be required to limit the number of dine-in customers and to require servers to wear face masks.
- Consider a gradual and flexible return-to-work process
To comply with social distancing guidelines, some businesses should consider adopting a gradual and flexible return-to-work process to reduce face-to-face contact between employees and the public. If your employees are currently teleworking and can continue to efficiently do so as workplace operations return to normal, you may consider having employees return to work in gradual waves, rather than all at once.
- Communicate with key stakeholders
Finally, businesses should remain in contact with key stakeholders, including employees and customers. You should communicate to your employees the plan forward, especially as it relates to work hours, leave or vacation policies, and overall expectations. Additionally, it is important to reinforce your business’s infection prevention measures by communicating them to your employees. With respect to clients or customers, social media is a quick and helpful tool to spread the word about when your business could potentially reopen. Likewise, you should remind customers to practice social distancing and other preventative measures when they return to your physical location.