Enduring a global pandemic may not be as traumatizing as military combat, but in both cases, the aftereffects can linger. When the smoke clears, there’s a lot of rebuilding that needs to happen to return to a state of normalcy. And as the COVID-19 pandemic finally begins to recede into the rearview mirror, another potentially disruptive force may come into play: a new direction in federal labor policy.

Here are some key HR issues and questions to ask yourself and prepare to grapple with as the year unfolds.
1.  What’s the best return-to-work scenario?

If many members of your team have been able to work from home over the past year, you’ll probably find that some want to make that arrangement permanent. But is that a good idea? Finding the best answer will depend, first, on your ability to decide which employees can work as well remote as they do at your workplace.

Then you’ll need to figure out how to handle employees who want to work remote but haven’t demonstrated their ability to do so productively—while considering the morale impact of your decisions (both positive and negative). And you’ll need to check to be sure no demographic patterns emerge in your decisions that could open you up to a discrimination charge. For example, suppose all those you allow to work from home happen to be women with young families and those you require to return to the workplace fall outside of that category. That decision may make perfect sense to you, but you may get some serious complaints of discrimination.

2.  How can you keep employees safe from COVID-19?

Few employers outside certain industry sectors (for example, food production) are planning to make vaccination a condition of returning to work. Legal risks could loom large with requiring vaccinations, except under conditions where the risk of spreading infection is high. So, you’ll need to consider a spectrum of responses from doing nothing at all, to gentle nudging, to cash or paid-time-off incentives.

3.  Are your employees experiencing any lingering emotional wounds?

Chances are you have employees who have lost loved ones to the virus. Or if they had to endure lengthy periods of unemployment, their personal finances may be in tatters. Or those who spent months working from home may have developed a sense of alienation from you and their coworkers. Whatever the case, it’s important to assess the non-medical well-being of employees and what resources you might need to make available to them to help them get back on track.

4.  Is your staff the right size?

During the pandemic many employers were able to get by with fewer employees. While some of that was due to a pandemic-induced slowdown in business, lessons in maximizing productivity have emerged. Some employers will conclude that, even with an eventual return to pre-pandemic business volume, their staff needs to be downsized. Knowing how to do so ethically and in a legally defensible way is key.

5.  Is your team diverse and inclusive enough?

Diversity and inclusion have become a topic of importance as businesses look to recruit and retain talent. Employers should look at their current workforce and identify areas of opportunity to increase and encourage diversity among their staff. Research has shown that a diverse and inclusive workplace leads to greater readiness to innovate, helps with employee retention, and positively impacts a businesses revenue growth.

6.  Does your compensation pattern meet a gender equity test?

As with diversity, pay equity from a gender perspective is in the spotlight. While few employers would consider that their pay practices are unfair to women, it might be fruitful for employers to look at the issue in a new way. For example, some states are discouraging employers from basing compensation offers to new hires on their salary history alone. That approach can lock many women into lower salary ranges. Employers are encouraged (or possibly required) to base pay offers purely on what is paid to male employees performing the same work with the same level of responsibility.

Running a successful business is never simple. But it’s made easier by having a loyal, productive, and contented workforce. That requires regularly asking yourself important HR management questions and, when needed, making changes to turn unsatisfactory answers into good ones.

R+R’s HR consulting team is here to help— we provide solutions to workplace issues that support and optimize you operating principles. Contact Katie Hall to help navigate your compliance requirements and relieve the overwhelming daily tasks surround recruitment, talent management, benefits, or payroll.

Reynolds + Rowella is a regional accounting and consulting firm known for a team approach to financial problem solving. As Certified Public Accountants, our partners foster a personal touch with our clients. As members of DFK International/USA, an association of accountants and advisors, our professional network is international, yet many of our clients have known us for years through the local communities we serve.

Our mission is to operate as a financial services firm of outstanding quality. Our efforts are directed at serving our clients in the most efficient and responsive manner possible, delivering services that exceed the expectations of those we serve. The firm has offices at 90 Grove St., Ridgefield, Conn., and 51 Locust Ave., New Canaan, Conn. For more information, please contact Elizabeth Bresnan at 203.438.0161 or email.


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