Navigating Compliance When Bringing Back Employees

The workplace landscape looks much different than it did two years ago. With offices everywhere emerging from a global pandemic, a “return to normal” means first developing workplace policies that protect every one of your employees. From Covid testing to updated workplace protocols, there’s a lot of important steps employers need to figure out before re-opening the doors.

In short – it may feel like opening a brand new office. The collective changes could be quite confusing for both new and long-time employees alike, not to mention the employers themselves.

This proposes a crisis of compliance – two different kinds, in fact: both employee compliance with new guidelines once they return to work, and employer compliance with hiring laws, when it comes to bringing back furloughed (or possibly even laid off) workers. The two are connected – after all, a different kind of office requires a different kind of employee. What that means for the employer’s rights and responsibilities is where it gets complicated.

Communicating New & Updated Policies

Communicating office policies and guidelines are step one in ensuring your returning employees actually follow them, the same way it would be for new hires. Upon returning (or even before), it’s a great idea to update your company’s handbook and email it to the entire staff. However you eventually deliver them, document all updated rules and policies and communicate them clearly – so that everyone’s on the same page.

Of course all changes to company policy should be relayed by as many means and methods available to you, from emails to Slack announcements to video conferences. Specifically updating the employee handbook, however, is a vital step in the proces. This is not just for your peace of mind as an employer, but for preventing future miscommunication, and protecting company liability.

When properly maintained and updated, an employee handbook serves as a very useful source of information in settling office disputes. If your most recent guidelines are all clearly documented, it’s difficult for employees to say they weren’t properly informed of them.

Consistent Application of Policy

While effectively communicating both new and updated policies is essential to getting your employees on board with them, it’s equally important to apply them unilaterally. Inconsistencies in enforcing policy are a quick way to shatter office morale, breed resentment among staff and create an anxious culture in the workplace, even when it comes to bringing back staff.

This applies to all policies across all positions (aside from very specific ones that pertain to certain departments). If employees feel like they’re being treated unfairly, you’ll have a whole new set of well-earned problems on your hands.

Updated Background Checks

Updated background checks for returning employees could be a harsh move for some companies, but a perfectly practical one for others. A lot has happened since the pandemic broadly moved much of the workforce out of the office and into remote positions (or in many unfortunate casee, into furlough or worse).

The most important thing to remember when considering new background checks for any employees, but particularly for returning ones, is the exact topic mentioned above – consistency across the board. We probably don’t have to tell you how poorly some employees would take it if you screened them without screening the others.

For liability purposes, some companies might want to go beyond a criminal background check in certain cases, particularly when bringing back those on furlough. However, not all states have the same regulations when it comes to what you’re allowed to screen for, even in instances of drug testing. 

Just as importantly, not all states have the same regulations when it comes to how you can conduct background checks, especially on returning employees. Transparency is vital here, as the prospect of being screened again could rub employees the wrong way, even if they’re being screened for purely legal reasons.

Research all federal, state and local guidelines before proceeding with any background checks, and consult with an expert who can give you trusted advice. PeopleG2 has a team of experts ready to help you, and provide guidance on exactly what you’re entitled to when running screenings.

A Compliant Conclusion

From disclosure mandates to ban the box laws and beyond, compliance can already be a tricky field to navigate when hiring, but when it comes to policies for returning employees, it can be a downright maze. PeopleG2’s team can advise you on all relevant regulations – from the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to all requirements provided by the FTC and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Don’t risk getting a claim against you by a returning (or no longer returning) employee, all because of guidelines you didn’t realize had changed. Reach out to PG2’s team today to learn which rules you need to follow when bringing back employees, and which rules of your own you’re allowed to set while doing so.

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