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COVID-19 Reopening and Returning to Work FAQs

COVID-19 Reopening and Returning to Work FAQs

Help small businesses with their return-to-work plans, protect their employees, and provide guidance and support with answers to their most commonly asked questions. View additional FAQ topics.

California's "Blueprint for a Safer Economy"

What is California’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy”?

On August 28 Governor Newsom announced details of a new color-coded statewide system for businesses reopening called “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Each California county falls into one of four colored tiers, with specific rules for businesses reopening:

  • Purple (widespread transmission) – many non-essential indoor business operations are closed.
  • Red (substantial transmission) – some non-essential indoor business operations are closed.
  • Orange (moderate transmission) – some indoor business operations are open with modifications.
  • Yellow (minimal transmission) – most indoor business operations are open with modifications.

The San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times both have helpful articles explaining the new system.

 

Helpful Resources 

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What types of businesses are currently permitted to reopen?

Both the LA Times and SF Chronicle publish helpful guides on the status of business reopening across the state. Many local Chambers of Commerce also provide up-to-date information. Both the US Chamber of Commerce and California Chamber of Commerce publish directories of local Chambers of Commerce.

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Carrier Resources

Are carriers providing guidance for reopening and returning employees to work?

Yes. Here are helpful carrier guides for reopening and returning employees to work:  

Humana 

Kaiser Permanente 

UnitedHealthcare 

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HR Compliance

What resources are available to help employers stay HR compliant?

Claremont partners Mammoth HR (with Think HR) and Paylocity both have very helpful resources to help HR and Payroll teams stay compliant as their business re-open and they return employees to work: 

Mammoth HR (with Think HR) 

Paylocity  

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Health Benefits

How can the health benefits that small businesses offer their employees help them as they return their teams to the workplace?

As they return their teams to the workplace, employers want to ensure that employees remain healthy, secure and productive. The health benefits they offer their employees can help. Employers should communicate the value of their benefits to returning employees, and should consider adding these if not part of their current offering:

  • Telehealth. All major carriers have temporarily enhanced their telehealth benefits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, some carrier plans offer comprehensive telehealth benefits as part of the regular schedule of benefits.
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Many employers will have an EAP bundled with one of their existing lines of coverage. For those that don’t, EAPs are available both on a stand-alone basis and often as an additional benefit alongside life and disability coverage.
  • Mental health and wellness. All major carriers provide value-add wellness programs, and have expanded their mental health offerings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Disability Insurance. Especially during this time, disability coverage helps employees feel that they and their families will be protected if they have to be out of work due to illness or injury.
  • Remote work and emergency response benefits. These account-based benefits help employees stay productive and financially secure.

Each of your client’s needs is situational. Contact us for assistance in evaluating the benefits offerings that best meet their needs.

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What health benefits concerns should employers be considering as they reopen and return employees to work?

Employers should ensure that employees are aware of the enhancements to benefits and coverage that carriers have introduced in response to COVID-19: 

  • Waiving of cost sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment. 
  • Telehealth availability and waiving of cost sharing. 
  • Pharmacy: Waiving of early refill limits and availability of no-cost home delivery. 

Most carriers’ COVID-19 enhanced benefits have expiry dates. Employers should ensure that employees are aware of these. Our COVID-19 Carrier Response Guides provide a helpful summary of each carrier’s actions in these areas. 

Employers should also communicate to employees the benefits currently available to them and how best to use them, including: 

Most carriers are providing helpful resources for members on coverage and access to care. (e.g. Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare)

Employers may want to consider additional benefits to help employees, including emergency response benefits such as Section 139 accounts. 

Employers will want to ensure any recent and upcoming changes to benefits are made in a compliant manner. For example: 

  • Reinstatement of benefits/ waiting periods. If an employee’s coverage was terminated during a layoff or furlough, the employer will need to determine if the employee is immediately eligible for benefits on return to work or if the employee needs to complete a new waiting period. 

Benefits compliance concerns will largely be situational. Contact Claremont for assistance. 

 

Claremont Insurance Services and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. 

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Returning Employees to Work

What return-to-work checklists are available for employers?

Here are some checklists published by credible industry organizations: 

 

COVID-19 Back-to-Work Checklist (Society for HR Management, SHRM) 

Return to Work Checklist (Think HR) 

Return to Business and Post-Pandemic Planning Checklist (Seyfarth Shaw) 

COVID-19: Return-to-Work Checklist (Fenwick & West)

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Which California counties are permitted to reopen at a faster pace than others?

On May 4 Governor Newsom announced the state’s plan to gradually reopen businesses. California is currently in Stage 2 – the limited reopening of lower-risk businesses that began May 8, 2020. 

 Some California counties have received State approval to move faster into Stage 2. A list of the counties with approval can be found here. 

As of May 25, the counties with approval to move faster into Stage 2 are:
Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Plumas, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba-Sutter.

On May 18, Governor Newsom announced relaxed criteria for counties to move more quickly into Phase 2. It’s expected that many more counties will shortly join the above list. Check back for updates. 

In addition to the state-wide list of business types that can open in Stage 2, these business types can open in counties that have received approval to move faster into Stage 2:    

  • Shopping centers 
  • Dine-in restaurants

Helpful Resources  

California Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response: 

LA Times: Which California counties are reopening. A very informative section on the status of business reopening by county.

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Workplace Safety

Where can an employer find industry-specific reopening guidance?

The California state government provides guidance for these industries: 

  • Agriculture and Livestock 
  • Auto Dealerships 
  • Child Care 
  • Communications Infrastructure 
  • Construction 
  • Delivery Services 
  • Energy and Utilities 
  • Food Packing 
  • Hotels and Lodging 
  • Life Sciences 
  • Limited Services 
  • Logistics and Warehousing Facilities 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Mining and Logging 
  • Outdoor Museums 
  • Office Workspaces 
  • Ports 
  • Public Transit and Intercity Passenger Rail 
  • Real Estate Transactions 
  • Retail

 

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidance for specific worker groups and their employers:  

  • Healthcare 
  • Dentistry 
  • Emergency Response and Public Safety 
  • Postmortem Care 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Meat and Poultry Processing 
  • Laboratories 
  • Airline Operations 
  • Retail Operations 
  • Border Protection and Transportation Security 
  • Correctional Facility Operations 
  • Solid Waste and Wastewater Management 
  • Environmental (i.e., Janitorial) Services 
  • In-Home Repair Services 
  • Business Travelers 

 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidance for the following industries: 

 

and Health and Safety Steps for Specific Occupations: 

  • Aircraft Maintenance Workers 
  • Airline Catering Kitchen Workers 
  • Airline Catering Truck Drivers 
  • Airline Customer Service and Gate Agents 
  • Airport Baggage and Cargo Handlers 
  • Airport Custodial Staff 
  • Airport Passenger Assistance Workers 
  • Airport Retail or Food Service Workers 
  • Bus Transit Operators 
  • Construction Workers 
  • Food and Grocery Pick-up and Delivery Drivers 
  • Grocery and Food Retail Workers 
  • Long-Haul Truck Drivers 
  • Mail and Parcel Delivery Drivers 
  • Manufacturing Workers and Employers 
  • Maritime Pilots 
  • Meat and Poultry Processors 
  • Rail Transit Operators 
  • Rideshare, Taxi, Limo, and Other Passenger Drivers 
  • School Nutrition Professionals and Volunteers 
  • Transit Maintenance Workers 
  • Transit Station Workers 
  • Waste Collectors and Recyclers 

 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services. 

 

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) maintains industry-specific guidance for businesses to safely reopen: 

  • At-Home Service Providers 
  • Bar Industry 
  • Business Services 
  • Childcare Centers 
  • Construction 
  • General Office Settings 
  • Gyms and Workout Facilities 
  • Hair and Nail Salons 
  • Retail 
  • Restaurants 
  • Rideshare, Taxi, Limo, and other Passenger Drivers-for-Hire 
  • Small Manufacturing, Repair and Maintenance Shops 
  • Small and Medium Sports and Entertainment Venues 
  • Worship Services and Religious Gatherings 
  • Warehouse and Logistics Industry 

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Where can an employer find a consultant to help them?

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) maintains a Consultants Listing where employers can find local industrial hygiene and environmental health consultants. 

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Local conditions

Where can I find the website for a local Chamber of Commerce?

Many local Chambers of Commerce provide up-to-date information on local conditions, and reopening and return to work guidance for local businesses.

Both the US Chamber of Commerce and California Chamber of Commerce publish directories of local Chambers of Commerce.

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Where can I find the website for a particular county’s public health department?

In addition to the California state government’s guidelines for business reopening, individual counties may have additional criteria, guidelines and rules for reopening.

The websites of each county’s public health department can be found here. 

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Managing Remote Teams

What resources are available to help employers manage teams that are working remotely?

As businesses reopen, some employees will be asking if they can continue to work from home. Below are some helpful resources for employers looking at their remote work policies and practices. 

Mammoth HR (with Think HR) 

 Paylocity 

 Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) 

 HR Morning 

 Upwork 

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The answers provided are a best interpretation of the information available as of the date posted. The answers are for informational purposes and should not be construed as tax or legal advice.