Regulating Off-Duty Conduct

When you consider that laws governing travel and social distancing vary from state to state, with a couple having no such laws at all, determining how your organization will regulate and discipline off-duty conduct is very challenging. And when an employee travels to another state that has different laws, which take precedence? Some experts have compared this debate to employer’s efforts to regulate employee use of social media, but it seems that how you regulate social media activity is much different than carrying out your responsibility to keep employees and working conditions safe during a public health emergency.

Given the fact that states have established their own guidelines, an example of an employee who traveled out of state to participate in a large public gathering can present a big challenge. While one employer might decide to quarantine the employee upon return because the gathering violates laws where the person lives and works, another might prefer to act in accordance with a less restrictive law that exists in the state where the gathering took place. Given the complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic, many will likely look beyond the laws and act in a manner consistent with their duty to keep their workplace safe for all employees.

One thing most employers and attorneys seem to agree on is that like so many employment issues, determining an appropriate course of action in matters such as these often comes down to whether or not your organization has a policy in place and how that policy has been communicated to employees.

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Approving a Vaccine

vaccineGuidance recently released by the FDA outlining conditions for approving a Covid-19 vaccine includes a 50 percent benchmark, meaning that any vaccine must be at least 50 percent more effective than a placebo in preventing the disease. This is the same benchmark used annually to approve flu vaccines. In the announcement, Commissioner Stephen Hahn told a Senate panel that the FDA would not approve a vaccine for the general public without clinical evidence that it is both safe and effective.

In accordance with established FDA guidelines, an emergency authorization can move much quicker than a typical full approval, but would still require the vaccine maker to show through clinical studies that the vaccine produced lower levels of disease. Several clinical studies are underway, with one manufacturer having just initiated clinical testing by 60,000 adults.

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Should You Be Doing More About Mental Health?

woman at deskThere is little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental well-being of many Americans. In addition to dealing with fear of the virus and social isolation, economic pressures have continued to grow. Many who have continued to work have been forced to balance working remotely with caring for children who would normally be in school.

A survey by telemedicine giant Teladoc recently showed that nearly half of American workers say their mental health has been negatively impacted. The more disturbing statistic is that only 27% say their employers are taking steps to provide help.

What Others are Doing

While larger employers have long made employee assistance programs available to those in need, the expansion of telemedicine has enabled employers of all sizes to provide access to behavioral health professionals. These appointments traditionally were held by phone, but many are now conducted by video using computers or smart phones.

As the pandemic has continued, onsite employers’ clinics have shown a significant increase in mental health and stress-related cases. Some health systems have placed mental health providers inside workplaces to provide quicker access to treatment. For more information or to strengthen your health plan in this critical area, contact your account representative today. systems have placed mental health providers inside workplaces to provide quicker access to treatment. For more information or to strengthen your health plan in this critical area, contact your account representative today.

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Do You Need an Antibody Test?

antibody_testIf you’ve had COVID-19 in the past, or suspect that you have, you may want to get an antibody test, which tests your blood serum to check for your body’s response to an infection. If you decide to proceed with an antibody test, make sure the test is authorized for FDA emergency use and speak with your doctor about the results. If your antibody test is negative, you probably were not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the past. If you test positive and have no symptoms of COVID-19, you likely were infected with SARS-CoV-2, especially if you had common COVID-19 symptoms in the past.

Rules governing which tests can be given and who can take them vary from state to state. It is wise to check with the department of public health in your state and also ask your doctor to determine if a test is appropriate for you. With reports of false positives growing, many physicians are recommending that patients wait until experts can better identify which tests are performing best.

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Industries Hardest Hit

industriesA new report released by financial services firm Alera Group shows that few, if any, sectors of our economy have avoided damage by COVID-19. One area that has suffered terribly includes food growers, packers and suppliers that typically serve restaurants, schools and other commercial facilities. Other sectors hit hardest include construction, higher education, healthcare, hospitality and gaming, manufacturing and restaurants.

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