Massachusetts issues return to work guidelines 

Written by
Saleha Walsh

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There has been much discussion about when, if, and how to begin the transition to our new normal.

Many of our clients are struggling to figure out how they want to begin transitioning back to their offices, or if they want to do so at all as the state slowly reopens.  This week Governor Baker issued Massachusetts’ phased reopening plan with extensive guidance about who can open when and under what conditions.  The state’s website provides extensive guidance to employers, as well as templates to comply with the new compliance requirements. 

In summary, the state will open up in phases.  Phase one began on May 18th, 2020 with additional rollout on May 25th.  Each phase lasts a minimum of 3 weeks.  This first phase allows limited industries to open with restrictions, but in all cases, this phase is being referred to and implemented as the “Safer at Home” phase. The best overall summary of this phased rollout and the related employer requirements is clearly outlined in the state’s presentation

The state has determined mandatory workplace safety standards for all businesses as they begin to open, as well as sector-specific protocols (see slide 10 in the state presentation above). Among other things, this requires employers to do the following before opening their offices:

In addition to adopting these compliance requirements, most businesses are using this time to capitalize on what they’ve learned about how their businesses can work differently as we move, forever altered, into the future.

Beyond the specific State of Massachusetts guidance issued this week, here are some of the most consistent points from a variety of other sources about workplace safety and compliance. In addition to guidance from the state, legal alerts, and other helpful resources, the Center for Disease Control and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have also provided very helpful guidance.  

In general, we suggest:

  • Determining both a short and long-term strategy.
  • Beginning to consider what work will look like now and in the future.
  • Engaging your leaders in this discussion from a strategic perspective.
  • Considering who you want to be now for your constituents and employees and how this experience will influence your business going forward. 
  • Identifying a COVID-19 safety team and develop a plan with a timeline.
  • Revising and updating your approach as conditions change.
  • Building-in required compliance with OSHA, ADA, and the CDC recommendations, alongside any new federal, and State of Massachusetts guidelines.
  • Providing the plan to employees – sharing your commitments to them as an employer and their responsibilities as employees.
  • Establishing social distancing protocols and modifying the office space to limit contact and exposure where people working in close proximity is required.
  • Modifying remote work policies as the situation warrants – for example, confidentiality, productivity, and workday requirements.

Other recommendations:

  • Consider extending remote work where feasible – retain what is working, adjusting as needed based on the needs of your business.
  • Consider testing and monitoring symptoms, track, and monitor exposure.
  • Determine and enforce PPE standards – masks, gloves, quality standards.
  • Provide written recall notices, and document employee responses, collect proper leave documentation and pay attention to the requirements of other standard employment regulations as they are relevant.
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act leave.
  • Pre-COVID laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and other federal and state laws, regarding disabilities, pregnancy, parental leave, etc.
  • Company-specific leave.

As mentioned above, for comprehensive and in-depth information regarding the State of Massachusetts’ recent return to work guidelines, including the latest testing and tracing strategy, and information on public transit limitations that may impact your workforce, please visit the official State of Massachusetts guidance pdf here.

As always, Insource is available to help our clients through this difficult transition. We are always on hand to answer questions, provide guidance and insight to help our clients through the uncertainty we’re all facing.

In addition, we are always updating our blog and social channels with the latest information around COVID-19 and how it affects businesses, so be sure to follow us, and keep an eye out for new content and updates.

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If you have any questions about dealing with COVID-19 in the workplace, email us at insource@insourceservices.com or call us on (781) 235-1490.