Partner Jeff Kopp was quoted in a SHRM in an article entitled, “Work-Refusal Unemployment Claims Spike During Pandemic,” outlining the rise in unemployment compensation claims from employees who refuse to return to work after being furloughed during the pandemic.
Jeff shared steps that employers can take to proactively support a return to work and discourage employees from opting to stay home, including:
- Create and communicate a plan. Prepare a written COVID-19 safety plan and communicate it to employees. The plan and communication should emphasize the steps the employer has taken to make the workplace safe, such as providing proper personal protective equipment, increasing sanitization practices and implementing contact-tracing protocols. This should make employees feel more secure about returning to work.
- Consider accommodations. Discuss and offer accommodations to employees who have a medical condition that makes them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. While not legally required, employers may also consider offering accommodations for employees whose personal circumstances have been altered by the pandemic.
- Notify individuals that refusals will be reported to state agencies. Consider communicating to employees that if a recalled worker refuses to return to work while collecting unemployment benefits without a valid reason, the claim will be contested.
- Report refusals to return to work. Employers should inform the state unemployment agency if an employee has refused to return to work because of a generalized fear of COVID-19 or the desire to continue collecting unemployment benefits. This will trigger an investigation into benefits eligibility and discourage individuals from refusing work without good cause.