Unemployment Insurance Questions, Safety Tip from CSSI and More Best Practices

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In our effort to continue to provide MBI members with the most up to date information on issues pertaining to COVID-19 in the construction industry, we have updated our MBI Blog.

Last week, MBI compiled a list of guidance and informational websites for your team to review. This site will serve as our main communication link throughout the COVID-19 crisis and will include all new information going forward.

Since our post last week, the AGC of America has offered additional information on their site. Again, it is recommended that you reference this site often as it is being continuously updated.https://www.agc.org/coronavirus-covid-19

Unemployment Insurance Questions

Yesterday, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced assistance for employees AND employers affected by COVID-19 related layoffs.  From the Governor’s office release:

Unemployment insurance claims:
  • If you are laid off due to COVID-19 or have to stay home to self-isolate, care for family members or due to illness related to COVID-19, you can receive unemployment benefits, provided you meet all other eligibility requirements. Work search requirements will be waived. Those requirements essentially include working for wages from an employer who claims you as an employee in six of the last eighteen months and have earned at least $2,500 in the same time period. More specific explanation of benefit eligibility can be found at: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/2019-unemployment-insurance-claimant-handbook
  • Claimants can expect to receive payment within 7-10 days after the date the claim is filed.
  • Claims that are filed and identified as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19, will not be charged to employers.  Fact-finding interviews for these claims will be waived and not be held although employers will be notified of claims received.
  • IWD will process unemployment insurance payments to ensure payment will continue to be paid in a timely manner.

MBI staff attended an online webinar on all Unemployment Insurance questions that was provided by Iowa Workforce Development.  You can refer to that webinar and some of the questions here.  You can also call Workforce Development directly at 1-866-239-0843 or email your questions at uiclaimshelp@iwd.iowa.gov.

Lastly, there is a very helpful up-to-date Frequently Asked Questions page on Iowa Workforce Developments website related to COVID-19.
**MBI will provide further information related to what Congress is expected to pass in short order related to unemployment and paid leave.  As of today, March 17, Congress has not sent any bill to the President for signature.

How Construction Companies Can Help:

Iowans are incredible people.  In the face of this unprecedented threat, some have begun to ask, “How can we help?”  One way you can help, as outlined by Vice President Mike Pence, is to donate any surplus N95 industrial facemasks to your local healthcare facility or provider.  The Administration has also requested that for a limited time, construction companies hold off on ordering any more.

Special Safety Tip from CSSI

MBI’s preferred safety provider – Construction Safety Specialists, Inc. (CSSI) – notes that there is a shortage on the N95 dual strap dust masks that are recommended for housekeeping and silica construction activities.  CSSI encourages the contractor to develop “engineering methods” first (wet cut, vacuum, etc.) to handle respiratory protection and use an “administration method” (PPE) as a last measure.  Contractors should reach out to their suppliers to coordinate equipment / machinery that can capture dust/silica to encapsulate.

When disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators are not available, consider using other respirators that provide greater protection and improve worker comfort. Other types of acceptable respirators include: a R/P95, N/R/P99, or N/R/P100 filtering facepiece respirator; an air-purifying elastomeric (e.g., half-face or full-face) respirator with appropriate filters or cartridges; powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) with high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filter; or supplied air respirator (SAR).

Should you have additional questions related to guidance on respiratory protection, please contact a CSSI safety professional at info@iowaCSSI.com.

Strategies and Policies of the World’s Largest Companies

(Gallup Managing Director Larry Emond gathered the strategies and policies of 100 members of the CHRO Roundtable, an organization that includes the CHROs of more than 650 of the world’s largest companies, for their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The companies in this sampling average $27 billion in revenue with 80,000 employees and most are global organizations. This is what Emond found.)

Crisis Management Teams
Most organizations have created crisis management teams, task forces or committees with a response tailored to specific geographic regions. These task forces meet regularly to develop policies and provide information to leaders, managers and front-line employees regarding COVID-19 awareness, prevention, management and hygiene practices.

These teams are also focused on management protocols and business continuity plans to guide current actions and forecast possible responses to future events. In general, their protocols and plans include:

  • developing succession contingencies for all major executives
  • conducting business using virtual, video or audio capabilities
  • restricting travel
  • reducing to business-critical operations only
  • moving critical operations to unaffected regions
  • cross-training team members to perform critical functions in the event of an unexpected absence or quarantine of another team member
  • documenting business-critical functions, processes or procedures in the event of an unexpected absence or quarantine of a team member
  • distributing call center scripts and agent communications

If an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, many companies have established protocols like these:

  • Require employees to report confirmed cases — either of self or family member — of COVID-19 to HR or management. The affected are typically required to stay home for 14 days and/or until cleared by a doctor to return to work with confirmation that there is no diagnosis of COVID-19.
  • Isolate employees diagnosed at work; immediately disinfect objects they’ve touched; trace their contact with other employees, customers, and clients; and notify those who may have been exposed without releasing the diagnosed employee’s name.
  • Ask employees to log all contact with other employees or visitors in case they become symptomatic so that others can be informed of potential exposure.

Travel Requirements
Most companies have recommended limiting personal and professional travel, and some have assured workers they could decline professional invitations without penalty. Generally called soft bans, these partial travel restrictions have been issued with requests to inform HR of travel and avoid air travel, public transportation and large gatherings, as well as 14-day self-quarantines following travel to affected areas.

However, hard bans are in effect in many companies, and travel to China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan has been prohibited. Indeed, most intercontinental travel — and, more recently, even travel in general — has stopped for the time being, unless it’s mission-critical.

Business Impact
Leaders are holding additional meetings to monitor business impact in efforts to protect or sustain business functions. Many companies with facilities in affected areas have closed them and are canceling their own — or their employees’ presence at — conferences, events and face-to-face meetings. Some have been able to move operations to unaffected locations.
Simultaneously, CHROs are:

  • monitoring supply chains or providers for potential impacts
  • conducting ongoing supply chain risk assessment and operation impact assessment
  • considering alternative suppliers
  • preparing for shortages, transportation delays or communication delays
  • approving additional budget for supplies or additional paid time off
  • reducing or suspending bonuses for top earners
  • analyzing and forecasting potential market impacts

Wellbeing
Companies are also assessing risks to their employees’ physical and financial wellbeing. Their mitigation efforts include:

  • instituting mandatory work-from-home or remote work policies where possible
  • closing on-site facilities such as gyms, cafeterias and common areas
  • making revisions to employee compensation and benefits policies
  • granting paid time off for symptomatic employees, employees who must care for family members who are diagnosed with COVID-19, and/or employees with diagnosed cases of COVID-19
  • using standing sick leave, extended sick leave, vacation time, paid time off or flex-time policies
  • increasing sick leave or paid time off for all or on a case-by-case basis
  • utilizing short-term disability, family leave (FMLA) or other existing benefits
  • recommending available Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
  • reminding employees about mental health services for stress management
  • using back-up care programs, childcare subsidies or other dependent care benefits
  • refraining from penalizing time off of any kind
  • permitting unlimited unpaid time off without penalty
  • providing travel/international SOS (medical and travel security) services
  • paying for time spent under quarantine
  • offering work-from-home options or adjusting schedules due to school closures
  • communicating employer-sponsored insurance and other relevant benefits
  • advising employees to avoid public transportation
  • staggering shifts to help employees avoid busy commutes
  • advising employees to avoid visiting high-traffic events or locations on personal time
  • reconfiguring meeting rooms, break rooms and other common areas to promote social distancing
  • expanding the time of meal service to avoid congestion, and asking employees to consider alternate meal times to reduce crowds

Technology
These companies are testing technological (e.g., remote work) capabilities, emergency notification systems and updating employee contact information. They’re advising employees to take their laptops or other portable equipment home each night, and they are devoting IT staff to help employees set up remote connections at home, sometimes on employees’ personal computers.
Leaders are holding additional meetings to monitor business impact in efforts to protect or sustain business functions.

Many companies have required or are encouraging video or audio-conferencing meetings (e.g., Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams) or phone calls in lieu of face-to-face meetings. They also recommend conducting collaborative projects by video or audio-conferencing, Google Docs, emails or other online channels.

Communications
Corporate leadership is communicating frequently — daily, weekly or as available — to address their organization’s COVID-19 response, advice, policies and protocols. Many are issuing FAQ guides, and many are including links to authorities and external organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The World Health Organization (WHO), Johns Hopkins University, local governments and outbreak maps.

Along with expert advice, these messages often include a genuinely personal element, i.e., reminding workers to get information from credible organizations, assuring them that none of their fellow employees have tested positive for the virus (where applicable) and urging employees not to panic or spread rumors. They will also often encourage employees to obtain enough food, water, medicines and other essentials for their families in case of quarantine or scarcity.

Communications are usually tailored to the recipients — whether leaders, managers, employees or clients/customers, respectively — and methods include:

  • social media for public messages
  • email, mail, text messages, hotlines and internal systems (i.e., intranet) to propagate pertinent information
  • signage to reinforce hygiene, screening and other organizational policies

Members of the CHRO Roundtable are conscious of the effects of their communication, particularly on customers. To that end, many have:

  • Proscribed responses from managers/leaders if contacted by the media. Many have designated media relations personnel who address all questions from the media.
  • Asked employees not to violate the privacy of diagnosed employees or clients/customers in social media messages.
  • Deployed social media and marketing messaging about customer policies and alternative commerce/services.

Training
Businesses are rapidly expanding training opportunities. Much of it concerns managers, who are being tasked with assisting in coronavirus containment, responding to employee needs or concerns, and communicating disease-management policies and preventative measures, such as hygiene practices. But CHROs are also creating COVID-19-specific training programs for security professionals, cleaning crews, maintenance and groundskeeping staff.

These protocols and responses, we’re told, will be operational as long as is needed — the end of May is the current long-term projection — and all are subject to revision. Gallup will continue to report on our findings as the situation evolves.

Special Message from AGC of America:

Dear Member,

As part of our broader efforts to track the impacts of the coronavirus on the construction industry and work with federal officials as they craft response measures, AGC of America has created the following very brief survey that we are asking members to complete by noon eastern on Thursday, March 19th.  We intend to send this survey out on a weekly basis for the duration of the coronavirus crisis so we can track the changing impacts of the virus on the economy, on your businesses and this industry.

Your answers to the survey will allow us to better understand the impacts of the virus on the industry and enable us to better advocate for measures to help the industry weather this storm.

In addition, we will regularly post updates about the coronavirus on AGC’s Covid-19 webpage (https://www.agc.org/coronavirus-covid-19) and we urge you to check back there regularly.  We will also send updates as needed electronically, and will hold a free webinar on Friday afternoon (details to come) to share the latest information we have, update everyone on the steps we are taking, and answer – when possible – questions members may have.


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