Attention Small Business Owners: Is it Time for your Business to Get Back in the Office?
If your business is still working remotely, it could potentially be time to get back to the office. In order to do so, small businesses must put together a robust reopening plan to properly address any and all concerns you or your employees may have.
Employers who have returned their companies to the office have done so in a variety of ways. Some businesses have mandated their entire workforce to return. Others have asked employees to return, but have not mandated it. Another group of businesses have created flexible schedules where employees rotate on when they come to the office. Choosing which path to take, if any, is unique for each business. Therefore, keep reading to receive more insight on what your company should do.
JUSTLAW has recently surpassed 1,000 small businesses enrolled in their small business legal protection plan. Thus, our small business members have asked two questions that I am sure all other small businesses are wondering as well: (1) Am I able to require all of my employees to return to the office? (2) Can I get in trouble for any employees who are infected with COVID-19 while at the office?
(1) Am I able to require all of my employees to return to the office?
The short and long answer is yes, but it may be dependent on your state’s laws. Generally, it is acceptable for employers to condition employment on a return to the office. Exceptions do apply to employees who have a specific reason as to why they cannot return. Those employees cannot be compelled to return to the office as a condition of employment.
While it is true that employers generally are permitted to mandate a return to the office, subject to state laws, that does not mean all small businesses should. There are potential issues with returning:
- Will you mandate that everyone has to get the vaccine?
- Is the office large enough to follow CDC guidelines and precautions?
- Will your workforce feel safe returning?
- Will your workforce productivity increase or decrease as a result of returning?
These are all questions worth asking yourself before you mandate a return to the office.
(2) Can I get in trouble for any employees who are infected with COVID-19 while at the office?
If an employee contracts COVID-19 in the office or an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs in the office, small businesses can be liable for workplace safety laws such as OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
In order to protect against your business from liability of such occurrences, employers should have employees sign waivers. The waiver would state that the employee agrees to return to the office, provided that the employer provides employees with a safe work environment.
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Clearly, the status of returning to the office for all businesses is still a question mark in the minds of most employers. JUSTLAW hopes this article has provided employers with some insight on whether or not your business can open up.
JUSTLAW also urges small businesses to sign up for its small business legal protection plan. Continue your business with the legal security and comfort you need to be as productive as possible.
This post is not legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only. No reader should rely on this information in any way whatsoever without first seeking legal advice.