Employers are taking steps to support employees, as well as community efforts toward testing for the coronavirus, treatment of the disease and social distancing—although those steps are by no means consistent. Efforts vary substantially across organizations and industries, particularly since for some remote work is a possibility, while for others in-person work is the only option.
That’s among the findings of a survey from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, which has also put out a series of resources for employers to draw on as they try to cope with the constantly changing situation during the pandemic. The resources, which are aimed at helping employers understand and benchmark the handling of COVID-19 from a benefits and policy perspective, include preparation guides and presentations on such topics as preparing the workplace during the crisis and guidance on treatment of employees in the event of shutdowns, attempts to screen employees at the workplace or ways to initiate or enforce social distancing.
“We’re faced with a tale of two cities,” says Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO, “While most salaried employees can effectively work from home, the great majority of hourly workers don’t have the same flexibility. Where possible employers are moving rapidly to enable a virtual workplace. Where this is not possible, they are working to maintain a certain level of operations and support social distancing. All are looking at how to best mitigate the financial impact for their employees as well as their own bottom line.”
More than 98 percent of employers have banned nonessential travel, hosting and attendance at in-person meetings, while 69 percent have put telecommuting provisions in place for employees who can work from home—and 50 percent have made it mandatory.
But since only a little over 70 percent of salaried employees and less than 50 percent of hourly employees can do so, that leaves a lot of people still working away from home. A lot depends on their industry, with finance, insurance and professional services proving more adaptable than retail and manufacturing.
For those jobs that have to be performed at the worksite, 60 percent of employers are putting flex hours in place, while 24 percent are shutting down with pay (20 percent more are considering doing so). And 5 percent are shutting down without pay.
Some employers are considering accommodations for caregiving responsibilities as schools and daycares close, with 59 percent offering unpaid family leave and 46 percent offering paid family leave.
When it comes to health care, 53 percent of employers are considering the emotional fallout of the coronavirus and providing special programs for workers. Telemedicine, with waived copays for testing visits, is going mainstream, and 89 percent of employers are offering or considering offering first-dollar coverage of COVID-19 testing. Thirty-seven percent are also covering the actual treatment of conditions related to COVID-19 on a first-dollar basis.
In addition, 66 percent are waiving or considering waiving copays for office visits associated with testing for the virus, with three out of four waiving or considering waiving copays related to coronavirus-related telemedicine visits.
But non-benefit-eligible employees or contractors are pretty much out of luck, and few employers are currently offering COVID-19 testing at onsite/near-site clinics.