Back to Work – Employee Safety Concerns on Returning to Work

Get ready to have new policies in place and answer employee questions 

Your employees may have many questions and concerns after returning to work. It is your job, as the employer, to address these questions and concerns regarding employees’ health and safety as we face COVID-19. Below is a probable list of questions employees may ask as you reopen your business. 

  • Do I have to return to work? 
  • What steps will you take to keep me safe? 
  • Will you implement social distancing between co-workers? 
  • Will you take mine and my co-worker’s temperatures daily? 
  • Will everyone be required to wear a mask and gloves? 
  • Will you provide masks and gloves? 
  • How often are you cleaning the workplace?  
  • How will you protect me from customers that might put me at risk? 
  • What if a co-worker gets sick? How will I know?  
  • What do I do if I know my co-work actively abuses safety practices at work or in their personal lives, putting me and others at risk? 
  • What happens if I get sick? Will I get paid for time off?  
  • What if someone in my family gets sick and I have to care for them? 

These questions may require new company policies 

While no two businesses are alike, and despite the fact that the business community has never dealt with a challenge like this, there are still guidelines and labor laws that apply to these situations. Here are the recommended steps your company can take to prepare for and welcome your returning workforce: 

Step 1: Gather your Management Team and discuss your COVID-19 “Return to Work” policies. Create a special section in your employee handbook called, “Public Health Emergency Work Policies as Related to COVID-19.” 

Step 2: Create a list of current policies that pertain to this topic, such as your companys’ existing sick leave, medical leave and other policies as they relate to health and time off. Many of these policies are still applicable to situations regarding COVID-19.  

Step 3: Review and incorporate new COVID-19 related laws from your state and county into a safety plan and policy. If you do business within Oregon please visit to review requirements for your business-type, as well as requirements based on the county level. If you conduct business within California please visit to review requirements for your business-type, reopening plan if applicable, as well as requirements based at the county level.  

Safety practices are contingent on employer-type. Masks are mandatory if you are open to the public, but in an office, they may only be required if you cannot socially distance yourselves from co-workers. Most businesses will need to customize their safety plan and policies based on their unique work process, contact with the public, workspace, etc.  

Step 4: Designate someone who your employees know they can communicate with, regarding any COVID-19 related situation.  Make this person available to all staff while informing them that all communication will be considered private and confidential and is protected by privacy laws.  

Step 5:  Communicate your policies in multiple ways to your staff before and after they return to work.  Consider scheduling mandatory [paid] Zoom meetings concerning these updated “Return to Work” policies before employees return to the actual job site. Repeat this information to employees through additional emails, handouts, or letters. Post these special policies on your internal intranet or employee-only website as well.  

Once employees return to work, schedule onsite meetings to discuss implementation of these new policies. To further enforce them, make sure to use a face covering and practice social distancing. Failure to do so has resulted in employees contacting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has been responding to these concerns aggressively.  

Are you ready to answer employee questions or develop new policies—overwhelmed by this looming task? Let Cardinal Services help you! Cardinal has the expertise in place to help you update your policies to address this public health emergency. Our HR Specialists are ready to help you craft new policies and procedures that are compliant with state and federal labor laws—for “normal” times and during these extraordinary challenging times. We have a dedicated webpage of COVID-related information, links and resources for employers. We’re here to help. Call us now!  800.342.4742.