COVID-19: Return-to-work Checklist and Key Considerations for HR and Finance Leaders

business woman arriving at office

Prepared in collaboration with Mary Schafer and Sushma Tripathi.

Many employers and workers have had to adapt to the global health crisis whether that included essential work, working remotely, or not working at all. As businesses start to determine what their new way of working will be, HR leaders will need to manage employee absences and leave cases, while reinforcing wage and hour law compliance, and will need ways to keep workers healthy and productive. Operations leaders, who are delivering products and services, will need visibility into employee availability, customer demand and labor needs so they can optimize workforce schedules and business performance.

There are a variety of health, safety, employment and legal considerations; and many of these issues vary by industry and location.

This checklist, including helpful resources, may serve as a starting point to help you develop a return-to-work plan that works for your organization.

Preparation Phase

  • Create a plan to safely bring employees back to work. This will require a thoughtful strategy, preparation and changes to your work environment as well as workforce management practices.
  • Consider which employees can or should continue to work remotely by the job, location, etc. Make sure all decisions related to remote work are neutral and job-related, and not based on protected characteristics, such as age, race, pregnancy or other factors unrelated to the job. Items to think about:
    • Continue to allow remote work where possible to keep employees safe.
    • Consider staggering weeks in office and at home among team members, or part-time remote work on alternate workdays.
    • Evaluate and update technology to continue to support both onsite as well as remote workforce.
    • Review pros and cons, as well as the long-term cost savings or other effects, of offering permanent remote work.
    • Be sure to partner with your employee relations and legal department to review and avoid any potential discriminatory practices.
  • Designate a point person i.e., safety manager or facilities manager, to ensure compliance with return to work policy and guidelines.

Compliance Evaluation and Resources

Communication and Education

  • Create a clear employee communications plan about the organization's plans to reopen. Tip: Include your return to work process, new policies, trainings to expect and your commitment to protecting workers and customers.
  • Prepare managers with a return-to-work toolkit that includes the employee return-to-work information, FAQs, updates on new policies and procedures and other information that they will need to support their employees as they return to the work site.
  • Notify employees with a return-to-work letter, if applicable, that includes their return date, work schedule, pay, benefits, PTO, new policies and procedures, and an at-will employment disclaimer, if appropriate. Resources: CDC: Guidelines Opening Up America Again, A 5-Step Guide for Encouraging Employee Direct Deposit Adoption
  • Consult with employee representatives, such as the local union officials, if applicable.

Back to Work Phase

While this checklist is a good starting point to help you plan for return-to-work, remember that each organization is unique and there is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore, consider your locations, culture, factual data, circumstances, and applicable federal, state and local regulations before making any decisions.

Register for the ADP Virtual Summit, Looking Beyond the Curve: Recovery and Engagement in the New World of Work. Hear from expert panels on what employers need to know about safely and effectively returning to work.