How are small businesses in central Florida being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? What should employers know about planning for and responding to the disease? In these uncertain times, you may need the advice and services of a good central Florida business attorney.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) have issued some guidelines to help small businesses through the pandemic. Those guidelines are summarized here.

You’ll also learn about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and how it changes the rules regarding paid leave.

Employers should be flexible and ready to adapt to changing circumstances. According to OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), many workers in the U.S. are at low or medium exposure risk levels at their jobs.

Accurate, Timely Information is Essential

Businesses can reduce the spread of the virus, but a lack of preparedness could hurt your business – as well as your employees and customers – if you have insufficient information or inadequate resources.

Businesses should keep abreast of developments as state and local health officials provide the latest information. Accurate, timely information will enable you to make appropriate responses – and possibly even keep your business alive through a pandemic-related economic downturn.

What Are the CDC’s Recommendations for Businesses?

Every business needs to determine how to deal with the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on the workplace. For now, the CDC recommends:

1. telling sick employees to stay home
2. determining how and where employees might be exposed to COVID-19 at the workplace
3. educating workers about ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19

Handling Sick Employees During the Pandemic

Any employee with any COVID-19 symptoms (such as a cough, fever, or breathing difficulty) should tell his or her supervisor, remain home from work, and seek medical advice.

Workers who appear to have COVID-19 symptoms and those who become ill during the workday should be separated immediately from others and sent home.

If an employee is confirmed with COVID-19, the employer should notify that worker’s colleagues about their potential COVID-19 exposure at the workplace while maintaining the confidentiality required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Flexibility is an Advantage

Sick workers shouldn’t return to the job until the conditions for ending isolation are satisfied and a healthcare provider has “cleared” the employee to return to work.

Employers should consider flexible policies to allow workers to care for sick family members or care for children due to childcare and school closures. Employers might also consider advances on sick leave and letting workers donate leave time to one another.

Determine How and Where Employees Might be Exposed

Older employees and workers with chronic health conditions are at higher risk for COVID-19. Where it’s practical, employers should consider ways that these employees can keep a distance of six feet from others or work from home.

The risk of exposure may also be higher for employees whose work requires contact with others in fields like healthcare and transportation or whose work requires traveling to locations where infection rates are high.

Educate Workers About Reducing the Spread of COVID-19

Your employees probably know the importance of washing their hands frequently and keeping a social distancing space of six feet. At the job, employers need to ensure that workstations, doorknobs, handrails, keyboards, and telephones are cleaned and disinfected several times a day.

Discourage handshaking. Provide soap, water, hand sanitizer, and tissues at the workplace, and make certain that you don’t run out.

As a patchwork of different rules and regulations are being established in cities and counties across Florida, it’s not only important to have updated and accurate COVID-19 information, but it’s also important to share that information with employees.

What Should Business Owners Expect in the Weeks Ahead?

If the COVID-19 outbreak does not fade quickly but extends into summer 2020, many employers may experience high rates of absenteeism, substantial changes in commerce patterns, and abrupt supply and delivery interruptions.

Some employees may be sick with COVID-19, but others will be absent because they are caring for a sick family or household member, caring for a child whose school or childcare is closed, or simply afraid to come to work because of fear of exposure to COVID-19.

Adjusting to New Trends and Unexpected Disruptions

The pandemic is already changing the way we buy things. Most observers expect online retailers and home delivery services to expand as consumers seek to reduce person-to-person contact. Drive-thru and take-out have already replaced dining in at Florida’s restaurants and diners.

Business owners should prepare for some supply and delivery disruptions. Should the pandemic endure, supply lines and delivery services may become less dependable. Deliveries from severely affected locations may be cancelled without notice.

Be ready to change the way you do business. Change might be what it takes to keep your business alive. Identify alternative suppliers for critical items and services. You may need to suspend some or all nonessential operations, at least temporarily.

New Rules for Sick Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (or “FFCRA”) went into effect on April 1st, 2020, and will remain in effect at least through December 31, 2020. Many employers are required by the FFCRA to provide paid sick leave or family leave for reasons related to COVID-19.

The provisions of the FCCRA apply to almost all private employers with fewer than five hundred employees. If your business is covered by the FCCRA, your employees now qualify for eighty hours of paid leave for COVID-19-related reasons.

Workers who’ve been employed at least thirty days qualify for ten added weeks of paid leave to care for a child in some circumstances linked to COVID-19.

However, businesses with fewer than fifty employees may not be required to offer paid leave due to childcare or school closures if doing so would pose a risk to the future of the business.

All workers who have been employed for at least thirty days by a covered employer may qualify for leave under the FCCRA. That is a considerable change from the 1,250 hours and twelve months that was previously required.

Employers covered by the FCCRA must post a notice about the new leave rules in a location visible to all employees.

Being Prepared Means Having Sound Legal Advice

It’s a cliché to say that business owners are in “uncharted territory” during the COVID-19 pandemic, but most business owners already know that planning and preparing are the keys to surviving unforeseen situations.

Part of being prepared is making sure that you have the right central Florida business attorney providing you with sound legal advice. A good business lawyer will answer your legal questions, address your concerns, and help you avoid legal difficulties in the weeks and months ahead.