People are traveling more and more right now after a long time at home—both for business and pleasure. However, COVID-19 infection rates are still rising across the country, and states are passing their own travel restrictions, complicating travel plans immensely, especially for employers. Depending on your state, you may be on the hook for paid leave if your employee must quarantine post-travel. This means if your employee travels to a high risk (for COVID-19) area for a week, you may be losing them in the office for 3 weeks. Worse, you might be paying them for all those days! You’ll want to discuss matters like this further with your HR department or HR consultant if you have one. It’s also important to start with any travel bans your state may have. Below is a breakdown of the Massachusetts travel ban and next steps you may want to take.
The Massachusetts Travel Ban
Starting on August 1st, the state of Massachusetts will require visitors and in-state residents who are returning home from out of state trips to fill out a Massachusetts Travel Form and quarantine for 14 days. Travelers will be exempted from this procedure if they can provide a negative COVID-19 test from the last 72 hours, or if they’re coming from a ‘low risk state.’ A ‘low risk state’ (as indicated by the Department of Public Health), includes Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. This list of low risk states is subject to change, and you can check back here for updates. It’s important to note that college students are also included in this order, as Massachusetts has around 114 colleges and universities, and many of them will potentially be opening to students starting in August or September. Anybody who doesn’t comply with this order could be fined $500 a day, which provides plenty of motivation for Massachusetts residents to comply.
How does the Massachusetts Travel Ban Potentially Affect Your Team?
Because the travel ban has such steep consequences, you should consult with your HR provider about what to do next. You may want to table all company travel (if you hadn’t already because of COVID-19). Additionally, you should speak to your HR services provider for guidance on what to do about vacations. Check to see if you have employees who must work in the office and have requested vacation time to at-risk states to your time off tracker in the next few months. You’ll want to consider speaking to them about moving their trips or changing the locations. If your employees can work remotely, it won’t be a problem. They can continue to work during their quarantine at home. However, if they need to be in the office, you’ll be out of luck for 14 days after their return. Worse, you may have to pay for these 14 days, depending on the situation. (Again, it’s best to consult with your HR provider on this.)
On the other hand, as you protect your company from loss of productivity or paying for leave that could have been avoided, don’t forget to monitor employee morale. As mentioned in other articles, employee burnout is a real cost for employers and is an especially big risk right now. You should also consider refining PTO policies as it gets later in 2020. If your PTO is on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis, you run the risk of everyone waiting to take vacation at the same time near the very end of the year. If your PTO can be rolled over, will you suddenly have every employee taking a significant amount more time off in 2021, when you’re ready to get back to business?
Work with your internal department or HR consultant to decide on the best HR strategies for this complicated issue. Creating policies and planning now will help you get ahead of potential complications or disputes later. Make sure you walk the line between protecting your company’s productivity and bottom line and building good rapport and trust with your employees. The pandemic is creating some unprecedented challenges for businesses, but it’s also creating some unprecedented opportunities to prove to your employees that this is the place that they want to work—in good times and bad.
Want to learn more about paid leave and your responsibilities as an employer? Check out our webinar on the FFCRA.
If your business is need of some extra help during the pandemic, listen to our webinar on PPP loans and Main Street loans.
Still have questions? Schedule a meeting with an HR expert.
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