As increasing numbers of people get vaccinated and COVID-19 case counts continue to fall, businesses are opening and employees are back on job sites. While we may be eager to return to normal, it is important not to forget some of the lessons learned over the past year. The pandemic has changed the modern workplace and raised awareness of some important employment law issues that still need to be addressed.
Amidst Pandemic-Related Changes, Employment Issues Need to be Addressed
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports that more than 1.3 million people were infected with the virus. With the vaccine readily available, case counts are dropping dramatically and the state is on track to fully reopen over the summer of 2021.
The pandemic brought about major changes in the workplace that are likely to impact employers and employees for years to come. During the American Bar Association’s recent 14th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference, panelists discussed some of these changes and the issues that still need to be addressed. They include:
- Workplace safety: COVID-19 raised awareness of the importance of reducing the risk of employee illness, which can get transferred to customers and carried home to family members. As social distancing and masks get phased out, many businesses have embraced more rigorous cleaning practices and continue to encourage the use of handwashing stations and sanitizers.
- Flexible schedules: During the height of the pandemic, Statista reports nearly 50% of employees worked from home, an option previously offered to less than 17%. Workers who did report to job sites often required more flexible schedules to accommodate children home from school. Many companies are continuing to embrace these practices.
- Paid time off: Federal law required extended family leave benefits and sick pay over the past year and while due to expire, some companies have committed to continue these benefits.
- Expanded unemployment/increased benefits: Pandemic relief made additional paid time-off possible. It also provided unemployment benefits to greater numbers of people and increased the overall amount. Unfortunately, these laws are also set to expire.
- Coordinated employment laws: Differing requirements regarding masks and business closures only made a difficult situation more challenging and emphasized the need for better coordination among local, state, and federal officials.
- The need to address social justice issues. The pandemic disproportionately impacted low-income workers and people of color, emphasizing the need for employment laws that address social justice issues.
Reach Out to Our Chicago Employment Law Attorney Today
At The Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline, we protect the rights of employers and employees in the workplace, helping to address problems that arise. Reach out and contact our Chicago employment law attorney to discuss pandemic-related changes and how current laws apply.