By Steve Freeman.

As you bring your employees back to the workplace, you certainly want to do it in a safe manner. How you define safe will vary depending on the number of employees, the interaction with customers, and your industry. But no matter the industry, there are some HR and benefits-related items that you may have to deal with as employees come back to the workplace.

  • 401(k). If you were able to keep employees on payroll, this may not be an issue. If you were not, you need to double-check your compliance with Safe Harbor matches, eligibility, possible missed deductions, etc. You also may have more employees or former employees who need to take loans, and some may need to move the funds to another account.
  • Health insurance. Again, if you were able to keep employees on payroll this may not be as much of an issue. But you may have to deal with putting employees on COBRA and then as you bring them back, taking them back off COBRA. Also make sure you have been invoiced correctly. A lot of employers end up over-paying premiums when they don’t take the time to audit the invoice, and with COVID 19 your invoices may be more complicated than normal. There could also be an issue with other lines of coverage, especially for employee-paid benefits. You may need to collect back premiums for employees who were furloughed or laid off. Do the best you can to show employees as much grace period as you can to catch up with premiums. If you use a payroll company or HRO, they should be able to help.
  • Paid Leave. There is a whole new set of compliance issues created by COVID 19. Make sure you know the rules and stay in compliance. This pandemic has caused many hardships on both employees and employers. When you are in the middle of a storm, it’s hard to realize that others are also going through a similar storm.
  • Working from Home. If you decide to keep allowing your employees to work from home, make sure you make the adequate adjustments in your employee handbook and your company policies and procedures. Address any needed changes as quickly as possible, and make sure you communicate the changes to all employees. Remember, being in compliance is still important and proper workplace decorum is as important on a Zoom call as it is in a physical conference room.

Many things have changed over the past few weeks and all of us will need to adjust to a new normal. That being said, people are people and employees need to feel valued and have a sense that what they do matters.

If you need additional information about HR and compliance, visit my website www.ocihr.com or call 214-770-4096.