We didn’t have much time before the Coronavirus lockdown to wonder what it’d be like. If we’d had more time to think about it, maybe we’d have been fearful. What would social distancing mean in a work context? Businesses would have new and urgent problems, but how would stakeholders engage, collaborate and solve them? How would external lawyers support businesses with these new and urgent needs? Even if we could travel to clients’ offices, there’d be no-one there. Would lawyers become disconnected from businesses?
The coronavirus pandemic has had a severe impact on businesses right across the globe and with a third of the world now in lockdown, thousands of businesses have moved most of their workforce to remote working. Although working from home allows a business to continue operating, it brings significant security risks, placing a greater need to maintain compliance with relevant data security requirements.
Maintaining the security of company data is the responsibility of both the employer and employee and continuing to maintain appropriate security measures is critical at this time. To read the full text of this post by Duane Morris attorneys John M. Benjamin and Edward Pickard, which includes some key points for employees and businesses to keep data secure when working remotely, please visit the Duane Morris TechLaw Blog.
Shelter-in-place. Social distancing. Elbow bumping instead of handshakes.
No more shared boxes of pizza. Massive stockpiling. Obsessive washing of hands.
The new habits and lexicon of the American workforce reflect the vocabulary of the COVID-19 coronavirus that was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December and has spread globally, striking home in all 50 states and ushering in new habits and social awareness — along with fear and anxiety. […]
‘Seismic’ changes ahead
Welcome to Remote America, a world in the making that is constantly in flux, with widespread flex-time and WFH adoption, unexpected tech challenges for benefits professionals, greater emphasis on mental health benefits and attention from HR on a myriad of new issues. […]
Michael Gradisek, the head of the benefits group at Philadelphia-based Duane Morris, said his employer clients have been asking mostly about the legal differences between layoffs and furlough, COBRA healthcare plans and compensation issues.
“Furlough is a term of art that is a temporary layoff, where we can keep staff on health, mental and vision, but those benefits depend on the insurance contract,” which is typically classified as unpaid leave, he says.
Benefits coverage is “case-by-case by each company and each contract. No good deed goes unpunished. What happens if we keep you on the plan, and someone ends up on a ventilator for two months? Those are the questions insurance carriers will be asking. That’s their job,” he noted from his home office, where he’s been in self-isolation since returning on Friday from a business trip from London.
Gradisek noted that in Europe, many of the bars and restaurants were open, and the crisis didn’t hit home for many Europeans until owners canceled the Premier League soccer games, similar to the NBA, NHL and preseason baseball shutdowns in the U.S. “My company said, ‘Glad you made it back. Don’t come in for two weeks,’ ” he says.
Their benefits practice has been “crazy busy and going berserk with calls” during the crisis, he says.
“Employers are starting to hoard cash, which is a smart thing. Can we voluntarily not make payments for executive comp plans and large payments? These are the questions we’re getting,” he says. “Some CEOs don’t want to take bonus money and put the company in a cash-strapped position.”
He noted various questions about delayed comp plans, and cited IRS code 409A, which does not allow for voluntary deferrals. “The IRS wants executives to take the money and pay the tax,” he says, noting that there are exemptions only if not deferring payments or paying bonuses may “jeopardize the solvency of the service recipient” or the company as a going concern.
“Is a million bucks going to stop the company from being a going concern? Employers are talking about it in reviews and discretionary bonuses. Those are all based on company and market conditions,” he says, noting one client that was weighing layoffs and reduction of certain staff salaries by 30%. […]
(This is the second in a series on the impacts of the coronavirus on employment and the workplace. Read the first part.)
In the old economy (three weeks ago), remote work was a growing but still limited part of the workforce. Only around 5.3% of American employees worked primarily from home in 2018.
Within the past three weeks companies have moved at Mach-2 speed to restructure workplaces, with the emphasis on remote work. The major tech employers (Facebook, Google, Twitter) were the high-profile early adapters in the first days of March, and other employers, in a range of sectors outside of tech, have followed.
It’s too early to say whether the current spike will lead to greater remote work following COVID-19. Many of the new remote workers say they miss the creativity, ideas and collaboration of the congregate workplace, as well as the social connections. At the same time, they may celebrate the absence of a time-consuming and draining commute, or travel-required meetings outside the office. We’ll see over the next few years. Continue reading Remote Work and Best Practices: The Coronavirus Workplace Series
Many employers wrestled this week with the pressing question about whether people should work with home. Boston Fed chief Eric Rosengren and Dr. Paul Biddinger, head of disaster medicine at Mass. General Hospital, have an answer: If they can, they should do so.
After huddling on Monday, Rosengren and Biddinger took the unprecedented step of circulating a column on Wednesday night directed at New England’s employers, about the responsibility they should take as COVID-19 spreads. The goal: to mitigate the virus and its economic impacts. Sacrifice normalcy now, they said, to avoid a much worse outcome down the line.
They encouraged companies to take tangible steps: work-from-home, business travel restrictions, no large meetings. […]
Gregory Bombard, a lawyer at Duane Morris, said employers need to be mindful of data security, as well as nondisclosure agreements to protect sensitive information. The parameters of what people are asked to do at home should be made clear. Perhaps most important, he said, decisions should be communicated in as open a manner as possible. […]
To read the full article, visit The Boston Globe website.