Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, HR professionals have had to quickly adapt to changing work environments and constantly changing policies. Newly established and changing guidelines aims to keep workers safe by allowing them to miss work/work from home because of COVID related issues.
However, this leaves HR professionals hashing out the details in their application. On top of this, the on slot of unemployment forms to process, and the never ending questions from employees and management wanting clarity on the new laws and guidelines and the average HR professional left with more questions than answers. I find I’m constantly searching for updated information on the guidelines for each state; especially as we enter phased reopening guidelines.
For example, an employee who now works from home, and has been for almost two and half months, starts to exhibit signs of COVID-19. They have informed you that they have been advised to self-quarantine by a medical professional out of an abundance of caution. Do they qualify for COVID-19 paid time off even though they can work from home? Are their symptoms so mild they could easily work or are they severe enough that they should take bed rest? Are they still physically able to work? What kind of documentation should you require? If you give them COVID-19 paid time off will you be able to successfully take the tax credit for the 2020 tax year?
This is just one of the scenarios that are currently playing out for many HR Professionals like myself. Without proper guidance you could accidentally cost your company a lot of money and/or violate someone’s rights, and no HR Professional wants that to happen.
So what is an HR professional to do in this ever-changing HR landscape?
Like many, I find I am joining every online seminar that is being offered to me. All in an attempt to stay current on best practices and ever changing guidelines. Additionally, in these seminars, you can learn from other’s experiences. Since March I have participated in one to two webinar’s a week. The topics ranging from things like The 401K and COVID-19, to Navigating the PPP, to Returning to Work Strategies.
The 401K and COVID-19 seminar, for example, was an hour-long presentation on to respond to 401K hardship distribution requests as a result for COVID-19 related job loss/reduction in hours. This is not something I have had a request for yet, but what if I do receive one. I want to make sure I am prepared ahead of time to help and answer questions.
I also find organizations, like SHRM, have been incredibly informative through the pandemic and phased reopening plans. They post regularly with timely and concise articles that answer the many questions I have. Just this morning, I read an article on employers and the decisions they face over keeping employees teleworking. A topic I’ve been thinking more about this past week as I help prepare our company’s Return to Work Policy.
As an HR Professional, this pandemic has taught me that you cannot be complacent. My strategy from the start has been to stay proactive. I try to ask myself what questions I could get from employees and management before they ask me. I attend almost every webinar I get a solicitation for, just in case that question, or situation comes up. I actively scour organizational websites for general knowledge and for guidance. I stay as diligent as possible so that I can navigate the changing HR landscape, and be the best HR Professional that I can be.
Author: Izabel Sorensen, Director of HR, RK Management Consultants, Inc.