America Is Reopening: Here's What Employers Need to Know

Computer on Table Working From Home

Please visit our COVID-19 resources page with more information for business owners and employees.

The president recently released guidelines for reopening the United States.

For those who are ready to get back in the office, there’s a light at the end of the COVID tunnel! The Opening Up America Again guidelines include a three-phase plan with gating criteria to help states ease back into “business as usual.” 

It’s worth noting that the road back to “business as usual” might not be a linear one. Your community may fly through phases and then have a setback. If we’ve learned anything from the last few months, it’s that flexibility and adaptability are key to maintaining some sanity during a pandemic. We have to give ourselves and each other a little extra grace while we learn to navigate the next normal.

This phased approach intends to minimize the risk of a resurgence of COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable populations. These guidelines will be implemented on a state/county basis, so you’ll need to stay up to date with your governor or mayor’s guidance for your area. 

Gating Criteria 

Getting back to normal depends on meeting the gating criteria. The gating criteria are based on a two-week window of time in which there is:

  • A downward trend of flu-like and COVID-like cases reported
  • A decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases documented or percent of positive tests out of the total number of tests
  • Hospitals should be able to treat every patient without the help of crisis care and there must be a testing program in place for healthcare workers 

It’s important to note: These guidelines make provisions for state and local leaders to adjust as necessary to accommodate the effects of COVID-19 in their communities.

Phase One: Meet the criteria once

Once the gating criteria have been met, the regional government can enact phase one of the plan to reopen the economy.

At the workplace, employers should encourage teleworking, shut off common areas, minimize nonessential travel, and provide accommodations for vulnerable employees. 

Schools will remain closed, visits to senior facilities and hospitals are prohibited, outpatient elective surgeries may resume, gyms can reopen with strict social distancing and sanitation guidelines, and bars should remain closed. Large venues (such as restaurants, movie theaters, and sporting venues) can open but must follow physical distancing procedures. 

Phase Two: No sign of a rebound and meet criteria a second time

If the gating criteria are still met two weeks after phase one, phase two can be enacted. In this phase, schools, daycares, and camps can reopen, in-patient elective surgeries can now resume, and bars may open with a limited standing-room-only policy. 

The recommendations for employers remain essentially the same, but rather than enforcing strict protocols, employers can enforce more moderate social distancing. Common areas should remain closed and many employees should continue teleworking; however, it’s ok to let a few more people into the office. The magic number for phase two is 50 people in any given space — so try to keep that number in mind when reopening the building.  

Phase Three: No rebound and meet criteria a third time

Assuming the gating criteria continue to be met, regions can move to the final phase, lifting most restrictions. Employers can resume the new “business as usual”, which is pretty much the same but now includes air high fives, a little extra hand sanitizer, and a dash of teleworking!

Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume. Large venues, gyms, and bars can remain open but should still practice physical distancing and sanitation protocols where possible.

Employer Responsibilities 

The guidelines emphasize the importance of implementing appropriate workplace practices, such as social distancing, providing protective equipment, implementing temperature checks, improving sanitation procedures, frequently disinfecting common spaces, and evaluating business travel. 

Employers play an integral role in slowing the spread of the virus by encouraging employees to stay home when they don’t feel well, offering flexible telework options, and showing kindness to your people during this crazy time. Now, more than ever, it’s important to create a culture that is flexible, supportive, and kind. We’ll get through this together!

It’s important to make sure you’re following all local, state, and federal regulations as well as heeding the advice of health experts when creating policies. Need help developing procedures for your workplace? Contact your HR business partner or give us a call at 888.811.5150. Our experts are ready to help! 

Also on Nextep

How do you handle employee promotions? When promoting one of your star employees to a management or supervisory position, companies should take the time to train and help the manager adjust to their new role.  An employee’s relationship with their immediate supervisor is one of the top five factors in job satisfaction, so a new […]
Read more
It should be no surprise that your employees post on social media or even blog throughout the day ─ maybe even on company time or equipment. And while they may not post on the clock, it’s unlikely that after hours they think their social media or blog posts could have consequences at work. While employers […]
Read more
The holidays can raise confusing questions on how to pay your employees, especially since there are separate rules for nonexempt and exempt employees. Here is a quick reminder on how to pay both groups during holidays. Pay for Nonexempt Employees If your business is closed for the holiday(s), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does […]
Read more
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released the “Know Your Rights” poster, which updates and replaces the previous “EEO is the Law” poster. Covered employers are required by federal law to prominently display the poster in their workplace.  DOWNLOAD POSTER What it covers The poster includes federal laws prohibiting job discrimination, as well as […]
Read more
Did you know that claims for unemployment benefits from former employees can increase your State Unemployment Tax Act (SUTA) tax rate? Managing the unemployment process can sometimes take excessive resources making it difficult for business owners to give unemployment claims the attention they require. Nextep manages this process for our PEO clients and can help […]
Read more
ALEXANDRIA, Va., October 27, 2022 (Newswire.com) – The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) announced today that Hank Johnson, Director of Risk Management & Legal Compliance of Norman, OK-based Nextep, Inc., has been elected to the association’s Board of Directors during its annual member meeting last month.  Johnson is among nine new industry leaders elected to […]
Read more
How to handle the SSN in the workplace The Social Security Administration has announced that an individual may now self-select their gender on their social security number (SSN) record. Previously, the sex marker would have to match medical records and other legal documentation. Now, a person can select the male or female sex designation of […]
Read more
Workplace violence among employees is a threat that all companies should be aware of and work to prevent. In 2020, workplace assaults resulted in 20,050 injuries and 392 fatalities, according to Injury Facts®. Background screening before hiring can help find warning signs and prevent employers from hiring a known threat. Sometimes, though, the employee has […]
Read more
When completing the I-9 to verify employment eligibility, you may notice that the form will expire on October 31, 2022. Usually, the government releases a new form to replace the old one. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced an extension to the existing form.  As […]
Read more
Should an employee clock out for a short break? What if they leave the office? Knowing the ins and outs of employee pay can be tricky, so today we’re tackling break times to help keep you in the know.  Generally, nonexempt employees do not clock out when taking short breaks of 20 minutes or less […]
Read more
Can I make my employee remove his nose piercing? Can I require dresses? What if my employee smells horrible?  These and other questions frequently arise when companies are developing effective dress codes. A thorough dress code that respects each employee’s judgment and comfort can be challenging for employers to come up with on the fly […]
Read more
It’s more critical than ever to make sure your business has a stable foundation. Businesses must be able to adjust to unforeseen circumstances and keep a solid financial footing through hard times. Here are 4 ways a PEO can help your business have more financial stability and weather trying times: PEO + OVERALL COST SAVINGS […]
Read more

Download Our App