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Coronavirus internal communication plan do’s and don’ts

March 13, 2020

Once your business has its novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) response plan in place, you need to roll out a communication plan. This plan needs to be mindful of key employment law constraints.

When developing your communication, key messages should include that a plan is in place, a team is assembled and ready to act, and that the response was developed thoughtfully. The communication can take multiple forms. Some employers may opt for an email blast, a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document or a combination of both.

COVID-19 internal communication plan do’s

When creating your internal communications, we recommend that you do the following:

  1. Do highlight the work completed on the plan to date, what steps are being taken to keep the workplace free of the virus and the expertise assembled on the team.
  2. Do remind employees that everyone has a duty to help keep the workplace safe.
  3. Do help dispel fears by educating employees on the virus and how COVID-19 spreads using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) detailed summary.
  4. Do detail temporary changes in any benefits, policies or practices, and highlight those that will not change.

    Common modified policies and practices often include:
  • International travel and work re-entry requirements
  • Domestic travel to red zones and work re-entry requirements
  • Extended paid leave and sick time policies
  • Telework policy and procedures

Common benefits, policies and practices that are not modified, but highlighted, include:

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act (WFMLA)
  • Short-term disability benefits
  • Protection of medical information
  • Time and attendance
  1. Do stay up to date on interim changes to federal laws that may impact your workforce, like the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  2. Do describe how employees can help with efforts to keep the workplace clean and safe. Efforts range from from washing hands and social distancing to encouraging self-reporting. The CDC’s guidance is a great base, but consider tailoring it to your specific workplace.
  3. Do conclude with a statement that outlines continuing efforts and that this is a fluid situation. Mention that your response team is monitoring international, federal, state and municipal government agency guidance and will provide updates to employees as they arise.

COVID-19 internal communication plan don’ts

From an employment law perspective, some issues can land employers in hot water if they are not careful. Many of these issues are better addressed on a case-by-case basis. For this reason, we recommend that you don’t do the following:

  1. Don’t address topics such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) direct threat issues.
  2. Don’t address Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reasonable accommodations.
  3. Don’t address potential physical screening of employees.
  4. Don’t address workers’ compensation.
  5. Don’t address wage and hour scenarios other than related to a change in policy or practice as noted in the “do’s” section.

Future posts on COVID-19 will address common questions and application of these laws to various scenarios.

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