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Here we are nearly half way through the year with one crisis after another for HR professionals. We haven’t even begun the return to work and now we have the next crisis as the nation reacts to the death of George Floyd. My HR colleague went to a local national chain store yesterday and overheard a conversation with one of the supervisors who mentioned that an employee had “called out” because they didn’t feel safe to come to work with the possibility of rioting and protesting. What is an employer to do?

Before we talk about best practices, let’s talk about the stress that our employees are under. This has been a year like no other. They are scared to leave their house, scared not to leave their house, scared of not being able to pay their bills, scared of losing their job, scared of getting sick. They are on furlough or already laid off. Add to that: kid challenges, family challenges, spouse challenges, and all of the other things that go along with massive change. How many Netflix binge sessions does it take to soothe all of this anxiety?

As an employer we have a “duty of care” to ensure that our employees do not suffer unreasonable harm or loss. This applies to all companies regardless of size. In a way, we have a duty of care to all other human beings. As employers, we also have the obligation to ensure that the workplace is free from harassment. The other law that applies to all employers is the National Labor Relations Act which gives employees the right to complain about terms and conditions of employment, including safety issues. Most companies and managers take these responsibilities very seriously. In these uncertain times, we need to remind ourselves of these obligations to our employees. We also need to add an extra ounce of kindness because of the extraordinary circumstances of these times.

Over the weekend in Jacksonville, protests led to the police shutting down portions of the downtown area and imposing a curfew. This is not something that most employers were prepared to address. As HR Professionals, let’s not just give lip service to safety protocols. We need to have written policies and procedures that include sending employees home and closing early under these circumstances. Organizations should outline the safety measures that have been put in place like security guards, reduced hours, a process for sharing concerns quickly with management and a leadership team that is empowered to make quick decisions.

It’s hard to run a business in this unstable environment. The best practice is to be aware of the laws that apply, create consistent policies and procedures, and add a whole lot of compassion and patience with employees that are stressed.

We hope you will join our upcoming webinar on Monday, June 8th @ 2pm for more information on this topic.
Click here to register for HR:30 Let’s Chat – Talking About Race at Work.