Maintaining a workforce, keeping employees safe and staying informed are three priorities many companies adopted in effort to keep business afloat amid the Covid pandemic.
At KPA, an RVDA-endorsed computer software provider, the human resources (HR) department is seeing daily changes that affect company clients. Human Resources Consultant Brianna Stashak discussed three main issues her department is tackling – the first being a myriad of hats to wear after the pandemic.
“Covid influences the day-to-day,” Stashak said. “We do national compliance, and each state devises their own safety and compliance regulations. It is our job to ensure we are monitoring all those changes and communicating them, and then helping clients make sure their policies and posters are up to date.”
HR officials often are responsible for tracking and implementing safety measures since the pandemic’s onset. Stashak noted HR experts are focused on ensuring businesses know about updated compliance policies. Offering assistance with internal communications, creating posters, ensuring information is shared with staff and answering compliance-related questions are part of that task, she said.
“Conversations with employees need to be up-to-date,” Stashak said. “Priorities have shifted with Covid. For example, child care was not as readily available and people were scheduling whether or not they need to be home. There was fear in the workplace and increased remote workers. Trying to manage HR policies and reasonable requests gets really complex.”
Stashak noted she was surprised by how quickly safety and compliance regulation shifts are occurring across the U.S. Regarding a Covid routine, she said it is not uncommon for a new bill to pass with amendments to follow one month later. Questions come up when a bill passes, Stashak said. Sometimes an area will receive a clarification letter, but the city will state something different.
“It is a daily task for us as HR experts to keep up on the news and filter out that information so it is useful without being overwhelming,” Stashak said. “When changes happen, we reach out [to clients] with weekly or monthly type of touchpoints.”
For example, Stashak noted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which passed last April and expired in December. The bill required private employers and certain public entities with less than 500 employees to provide staff with 80 hours’ paid sick leave for Covid-related reasons. In addition, the act required companies offer as much as 10 weeks’ paid, job-protected leave for staff members who needed to care for children following school closures or childcare unavailability.
However, Stashak noted something that many employers and their staff did not realize – the FFCRA regulations were created in addition to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, a U.S. labor law that requires covered employers to provide staff with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.
“More people had access to FMLA because it was not based on employer size,” Stashak said. “They expanded FMLA so it paid three-quarters your normal wage. But what was not clear at the time, it counted against your FMLA for the year. So, if you had a pregnant mom who took time off because she did not have available child care [for other kids] and is now ready to have the baby – she may have already exhausted her available FMLA for the year.”
The discrepancy was not clarified until a few months after FFCRA passed, she said. Monitoring the intersection between federal and state laws, such as with maternity leave, became a KPA priority.
“We really work hard to create communication that we send out to clients, along with keeping our website up-to-date with available resources,” she said.
Stashak said she believes many employers have been “good” about scheduling their staff with regard for work/life balance, but maintaining increased remote workers remains a challenge.
“We are working on engagement, technology and making sure companies can stay connected while being more innovative in the work flow and with scheduling,” Stashak said.
An important aspect is paying attention to how Covid affects various industries.
“[KPA] offers relief because we help give businesses industry-specific updates, so they are not trying to wade through the weeds to get to what information pertains to them,” Stashak said. “We spotlight how [Covid] affects the auto, RV and manufacturing industries by trying to gear info toward them, streamline it, be precise and keep it up-to-date.”
Stashak said KPA’s HR experts are keeping an eye on Covid vaccinations, which are becoming more widely available and therefore inquiring more questions. Ensuring companies understand guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is important, in addition to knowing their own state requirements and how to work with FFCRA.