Blogs

January 21, 2021

Strategies for Onboarding in a Virtual Environment

Virtual work trends were on the rise even before the Coronavirus outbreak last year. Many employers, however, have been reluctant to offer remote work for a number of reasons—technology setup, company culture, employee morale and management structure to name a few. When the pandemic hit last year, employers were forced to shift gears if they wanted to keep their businesses operating and many transitioned their workforce to work from home almost overnight. The unexpected change left organizations without a plan in place and no time to prepare.

As businesses got back on their feet, many were able to start hiring which meant they had to figure out how to onboard new employees in a virtual environment. Onboarding helps your new hire get familiar with your nonprofit and provides the tools and training they need to start working towards making an impact on the company’s mission. The only difference between in-person onboarding and virtual onboarding is that it’s done mainly through video and email—the goal is still the same.

In a normal environment, the process is often long and tedious—more so when done virtually. There is equipment to ship, software to install, documents to be signed, materials to provide, the list goes on and on. Here are some ways to instantly improve your virtual onboarding strategy:

  1. New Hire Paperwork. Consider using an e-signature tool so new employees can view, edit, and sign the various documents necessary to onboard someone such as tax documents, employment contracts, and direct deposit forms.
  2. Work Equipment. Ship any necessary technology (laptop, keyboard, mouse, monitor, headset, etc.) ahead of time to ensure the employee is set up and ready to go on their first day. Make sure to have any company-specific software installed beforehand and provide setup and login instructions at the same time.
  3. The Onboarding Packet. Create a detailed onboarding plan suited for the role that includes: a timeline with specific performance goals for the first 30, 60, or 90 days of employment, a checklist of tasks to be completed such as setting up voice mail and reviewing the company website, a company overview with your vision and mission statements, organizational charts, and details on information technology.
  4. Training and Development. Provide a list of “self-study” tasks that include online assessments, essential articles, training documents, competitors’ information and eLearning opportunities. It’s also beneficial to allow employees to take advantage of a variety of training topics, not just those that are required.
  5. Documentation and Procedures. It’s critical to the success of your new employee to have written documentation of job-specific procedures. This will help eliminate time wasted trying to figure out a process or waiting for someone to assist.
  6. Internal Announcements. Inform your current team of the new hire by sending a new employee announcement and copy the new hire so they can see any welcome messages from the team. This is also a good time to add them to any relevant communication channels such as Microsoft Teams or Slack.
  7. Welcome Package. You have one shot to make a good first impression. Send a Welcome Kit that includes some company swag, a welcome letter, a gift card for coffee and a personal invite to a virtual lunch with the team—this is a great way to get everyone familiar with each other.
  8. Introductions. Schedule some video introductions and have current employees go around and briefly explain what they do. You can also have everyone share a fun fact about themselves or craft a few starter questions to get break the ice. Make sure you include any other leaders the employee might work with so they too can put a face to a name.
  9. A Work Buddy. Working remotely can be isolating, assigning a go-to person who can guide the new team member through their first few weeks or months can help to make the transition easier. A welcome buddy can answer questions, share insights, and provide tips while helping the new hire settle in.
  10. The Social Side of Onboarding. Have your managers come up with creative ways to connect their team. Things such as challenging employees with trivia questions on a business communication platform like Slack, scheduling virtual team building activities or luncheons to celebrate work anniversaries or birthdays can bring the team together on a personal level.

Virtual onboarding might seem daunting challenging at first, but with thoughtful consideration and a solid plan in place, you can create a successful onboarding plan that guarantees a positive outcome for both the organization and the employee.

January 15, 2021

How Remote Working Impacts the Future of Talent Acquisition

While remote work was on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic, most employees taking advantage of working from home still had some form of in-person relationship with their employer and fellow teammates. While it is still relatively rare for companies to hire employees to work remote from day one, we can see that this practice is changing. As stay-at-home orders continue in many states, more employers are having to rely on virtual recruitment and finding this will most likely become the new standard for all future recruiting.

From the perspective of talent acquisition and nonprofit business leaders, the most significant challenges being faced by organizations are resulting in changes that will continue after the pandemic. Some of these changes have resulted in unforeseen positive outcomes—creating a whole new outlook on what a day looks like in the office.

Here are four major changes revealed by the global pandemic and the lasting impact they will have on what the future of work looks like:

1) At-Home Working Environment: As organizations adapt to a remote workforce, the more willing they are to make a permanent change going forward. This will have a direct impact on the need for office space; many organizations are already considering downsizing the amount of office space needed, in turn saving money on overhead costs. Organizations should have a thoughtful plan in place prior to making their operation fully remote. By sharing remote working policies with staff and providing additional training to managers overseeing a remote team, you’ll ensure a much smoother transition.

2) Recruiting Becomes Virtual: As we’ve seen in recent months, talent acquisition teams have incorporated new recruitment practices—ranging from interviewing candidates over video, to giving job offers without meeting a candidate in person. Virtual recruiting has proven to have such success it will most likely carry over as a new process post pandemic.

3) Technology is Priority #1: Many organizations have come reliant on advanced technologies to help navigate this new remote working world. Talent acquisition teams have seen how technology has streamlined onboarding processes and how this is the more desired approach by both hiring managers and new employees. While incorporating a more technology-based recruitment system will require more training, it will increase privacy and security. 

4) What Does Success Look Like Now: An organization can’t remain a float without their employees and now, more than ever, it’s important to listen and invest in your employees. This pandemic has forced organizations to make necessary investments in technology to ensure a functional working model. In turn creating significant benefits for both employees and their employers.

Now, the question everyone keeps asking is “what will happen when stay-at-home orders are lifted?” While there’s much talk about “getting back to normal,” some have come to terms with the notion that it isn’t most likely to happen. As organizations’ country-wide learn how to make remote work more functional, the possibilities of being able to leverage a larger pool of candidates, particularly those high-skilled hard-to-fill positions, is likely to become increasingly appealing. Talent acquisition and human resources leaders adapting to virtual interviews, offers and onboarding, has streamlined recruitment processes, while saving money. Nonprofit organizations will be able to use these recent changes to improve future recruiting outcomes.

January 07, 2021

HR Question: Creating a Diverse Workforce

Question: How can we cultivate a diverse workplace?

Answer: A diverse workplace with employees of differing age groups and experience can add to the richness and culture of any workplace. However, “diverse” and “diversity” can mean a host of different things, and unless company leaders agree on what kind of diversity they are seeking, creating cohesive diversity can be tricky. Here are some ideas for best practices to create and maintain a successful and diverse workforce:

  1. Define the term “diversity” in relation to your workforce and company culture. Consider what your definition means and how it relates to obtaining the best and most qualified workers, as well as how this definition of diversity can be linked to business strategies and goals. Reflecting on the background of the workplace, the organizational structure, and where diversity began to productively impact the business provides a good starting point.
  2. Establish a clear and concise diversity strategy where the stakeholders are defined, changes to the current structure are identified along with potential barriers, and how the strategy will be successfully implemented.
  3. Outline processes for implementation. Spell out each step to obtain the goal of diversity, and consider how the steps will be tested and applied, potential employee involvement, how you will measure success (efficiency, benefits, retention), resources you will need, and key performance indicators.
  4. Utilize employee and manager involvement to create and implement the strategies, which will help determine how the diversity has impacted the organization. Clearly outline participation and expectations for both employees and managers, along with training and cooperation at all levels. Each individual should have a sense of accountability in implementing diversity strategies.
  5. Create future goals, analyze results of all diversity efforts, and consider areas for improvement to ensure continued development and consistent successes.

Don’t forget to abide by all applicable local, state, and federal laws in regard to diversity and ensure all workplace policies are applied consistently and without discrimination.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial today.

December 18, 2020

UST's Most Popular 2020 Content

This year, UST has been busy creating a plethora of timely and relevant resources designed specifically to help the nonprofit sector navigate the many unknowns presented by the pandemic. You probably recall seeing some of these resources over the past eight months but... with everything you are dealing with these days, you may have missed something.

Below is a list of our Top 5 Resources from 2020:

  1. COVID-19 Nonprofit Workforce Trends Report
  2. eBook: Strategies to Secure Nonprofit Endurance
  3. 7 Mental Wellness Tips Flyer
  4. COVID-19 Employer Guide
  5. Telecommuting Toolkit

As nonprofit employers and their employees continue to adjust their processes for how they work, UST remains committed to supporting the sector with reliable resources that help manage the day-to-day operational challenges. Interested to see what other content we have? Visit our Content Library today!

December 09, 2020

COVID-19 and Employee Benefits Plans Q&A

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created new and unique challenges for employers and their employees. Group health plans and other employee benefit plans are one area of concern during these times. UST HR Workplace powered by ThinkHR has been on the front lines, supporting employers with HR and Benefits advice and compliance guidance through their online resources and on-demand advisors.

Here are some of the most-frequently asked questions received about COVID-19 and benefit plans:

Do all medical plans cover COVID-19 testing? Yes, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires that all medical plans provide 100% coverage of COVID-19 testing. There are no deductibles, copays, or coinsurance. This federal mandate took effect March 18, 2020 and applies to insurance plans and employer self-funded plans, including grandfathered plans. It does not apply to retiree-only plans.

All testing-related services and services, such as consultative visits to doctors (including telehealth), emergency rooms and urgent care centers that lead to an order for testing, and the administration of tests, are covered. Preauthorization is not required and coverage is not limited to in-network providers.

Is treatment of COVID-19 also covered at 100%? It depends. The FFCRA mandate for 100% coverages applies only to services and supplies related to testing. Once diagnosed, however, coverage for any treatment of COVID-19 will depend on each medical plan’s terms and conditions, including any provisions for deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and use of network providers.

Additionally, insured plans are subject to state laws that may be broader than the new federal mandate. A number of states now require that medical insurers cover COVID-19 treatment at 100% (in addition to testing). Many carriers also have agreed to provide 100% coverage even if not required by law. For details, contact your carrier or check the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) website for the latest updates.

Is a high deductible health plan (HDHP) that waives the deductible for COVID-19 testing still compatible with a Health Savings Account (HSA)? What about coverage for treatment? HDHP must cover COVID-19 testing at 100% per the FFCRA mandate. HDHPs also may be amended to cover treatment of COVID-19 as a first-dollar benefit without deductibles. On March 11, 2020, the IRS announced that pre-deductible coverage of testing and treatment does not cause the plan to lose its status as an HSA-compatible HDHP and does not interfere with the covered person’s eligibility to make HSA contributions.

Many employees are working from home now instead of coming to the office. Can they continue using their Dependent Care FSAs for childcare expenses? Yes, employees can continue using their Dependent Care FSAs provided that the childcare is required for the employee to be able to work. For instance, employees working full time may need the same childcare whether working from home or the office. If, however, the employee or spouse can care for the child while the employee works, the expenses are not reimbursable.

Can employees change their Dependent Care FSA election due to the COVID-19 issues? The IRS rules for Dependent Care FSAs set forth a list of permissible election changes. (Ref: 26 CFR § 1.125-4.) Assuming the employer includes all IRS-permissible change events in its plan document, employees may start, stop, increase or decrease their Dependent Care FSA contribution on account of specific events. Examples of events that are likely to come up due to COVID-19 issues include:

  • The dependent care center or provider is no longer available;
  • The employee needs childcare because the schools are closed; or
  • The employee’s or spouse’s employment status or work hours are changed.

Can employees change their commuter benefits since they are now working from home? Section 132(f) plan, often called pretax commuter benefits, allow employees to change their election, or start or stop contributing, for any reason. Generally, changes made by the middle of the month take effect the first of the next month, but employees will want to confirm their plan’s procedures with the administrator. Note that there is no use-or-lose provision for commuter benefits, so any unused balance now will be available for the employee’s use when they get back to commuting to work.

Many employees have been put on reduced hours or furloughed. Can the employer continue covering them on the group health plan? Many employers and workers are concerned about maintaining group health coverage when work hours are cut due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. Each employer’s case is different, so we suggest the following steps:

  1. Review the group policy or plan document. If the plan limits eligibility to employees who are regularly scheduled to work 30 hours or more per week and states that coverage ends when the employee ceases to be eligible (unless protected by the FMLA or similar law), then reduced hours or furloughs will cause the employee to lose coverage. Plans must be administered according to their terms, so the employer cannot continue reporting that employee (and dependents) as active on its eligibility file to the carrier.
  1. If the employer wants to continue eligibility for reduced-hours employees or furloughed employees, contact the carrier regarding options to amend the policy. Many carriers are agreeing to changes, and a number of states are requiring carriers to give employers the option of maintaining active coverage for furloughed or reduced-hours employees.
  1. If the plan is self-funded, the employer may amend its plan as long as the plan does not discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. If the employer has stop-loss insurance, that policy also may need to be amended to ensure its terms are consistent with the underlying self-funded plan.
  1. Is the employer an applicable large employer (ALE) that uses the look-back measurement method to determine eligibility for group health (medical) coverage? If so, employees who are deemed full-time employees for a stability period will not lose eligibility during that stability period even if they are furloughed or their work hours are cut (if they remain employed).
  1. If the employee’s coverage ends, note that loss of coverage due to reduced work hours or furlough is a COBRA qualifying event. The federal COBRA rules apply plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more workers (except certain church plans). Insured plans also may be subject to state insurance continuation laws (often called mini-COBRA).

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial here.

December 02, 2020

[Webinar Recording] Supporting Nonprofit Sustainability During a Crisis

This short 30-minute on-demand webinar features tools and resources that can help nonprofit employers streamline HR processes and stay compliant with state and federal regulations in these trying times. During this interactive session, UST answered questions about the CARES Act and FFCRA as well as shared examples of problems our nonprofit members have faced and overcome.

Watch now to learn about:

  • Efficiently managing unemployment claims, protests, and hearings
  • Updating policies and handbooks to comply with new legislation
  • Enhancing goodwill by utilizing outplacement services

Whether your primary focus is to ensure compliance, better manage unemployment claims, or to simply stay afloat and keep your employees engaged, this on-demand webinar will provide expert insight and invaluable resources for addressing your current needs.     

For additional COVID-19 employer resources and FAQs, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.

November 23, 2020

2020 Risk Management Toolkit for Nonprofit Employers

The Coronavirus has presented a whole new set of challenges to the nonprofit sector—one of the most prevalent being the impact of unpredicted unemployment costs. To help nonprofit employers address (and avoid) future UI risks, we've compiled our top resources to create the 2020 Employer Risk Management Toolkit

As nonprofits continue to struggle in the current economic environment, it's more important than ever to recognize and manage unemployment risk. This free toolkit includes unemployment cost management strategies, a UI Integrity infographic, fraud prevention tips, and more:

  1. Understanding Unemployment Insurance
  2. Top Employer UI Cost Management Challenges
  3. Webinar Recording: Supporting Nonprofit Sustainability
  4. UI Integrity Best Practices Infographic
  5. Overview of UI Benefit Changes Under the CARES Act
  6. COVID-19 Employer Tax Credits: The Employee Retention Credit
  7. The Anatomy of Improper UI Payments
  8. Addressing Unemployment Fraud in the Workplace
  9. State-by-State Unemployment Insurance Reference Guide

Want access to more nonprofit-specific tips, toolkits and webinars? Sign up for our nonprofit eNewsletter today!

November 20, 2020

[Webinar Recording] UST Live: Recruiting During a Pandemic

In our third and final UST Live webinar, we welcomed three human resource leaders from across the U.S. with expertise in recruitment best practices to discuss innovative strategies for interviewing and hiring best-fit job candidates, while showcasing brand and culture, in the age of the Coronavirus. You'll also learn about the latest recruiting tools that your HR peers have leveraged during the pandemic.

Watch now to discover:

  • How to streamline hiring processes and attract the right candidates
  • Tactics for illustrating a positive employer brand and workplace culture
  • Ideas to maintain an effective interview process with in-person limitations

As nonprofit employers and their employees continue to navigate the many unknowns of the Coronavirus—and its impact on future business—UST remains committed to supporting the sector with reliable and timely content for managing the day-to-day challenges of COVID-19.

November 10, 2020

HR Question: Asking Employees About Their Symptoms

Question: As we begin to return to work, if an employee is out of the office due to sickness, can we ask them about their symptoms?

Answer: Yes, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. In non-pandemic circumstances, employers shouldn’t ask about an employee’s symptoms, as that could be construed as a disability-related inquiry. Under the circumstances, however — and in line with an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace — it is recommended that employers ask specifically about the symptoms of COVID-19.

Here is a suggested communication: “Thank you for staying home while sick. In the interest of keeping all employees as safe as possible, we’d like to know if you are having any of the symptoms of COVID-19. Are you experiencing a fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or a new loss of taste or smell?”

Remember that medical information must be kept confidential as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If the employee does reveal that they have symptoms of COVID-19, or has a confirmed case, the CDC recommends informing the employee’s co-workers of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace (but not naming the employee who has or might have it) and directing them to self-monitor for symptoms. Employers should also follow CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial here.

November 04, 2020

2020 Virtual Event Best Practice Tips

As we continue social-distancing—heavily relying on virtual resources—large-scale events have taken on a whole new look and feel. With 2021 right around the corner, NOW is the time to map out what your nonprofit's event strategy will look like in the new year and beyond.

While the idea of hosting a virtual event might seem overwhelming, with thoughtful planning and the right support, achieving exceptional results is possible. Virtual events offer the best combination of brand exposure and the digital engagement people crave. Whether your event is large or small, one day or one week, we've compiled some of the top Virtual Event Best Practice Tips to help you navigate the many considerations involved in planning (and executing) a successful virtual event. 

Want access to more nonprofit-specific tips, toolkits and webinars? Sign up for our nonprofit eNewsletter today!

October 29, 2020

COVID-19 Nonprofit Story: DARTS

UST’s new blog series, “COVID-19 Nonprofit Stories,” illustrates how nonprofits and their employees have been coping with the unexpected challenges of the Coronavirus. Each blog spotlights one organization and the personal hurdles and workforce strategies they have encountered throughout this pandemic.

Our next story comes from another dedicated UST member—DARTS. Located in Minneapolis, DARTS provides personalized professional services to the aging demographic in the local Dakota County. By providing transportation and home services to their aging community, DARTS helps participants to lead more independent and fulfilling lives. Their services include such things as light housework, outdoor chores, home repair, caregiving resources, transportation and more.

Q: In general, how has your nonprofit been impacted by COVID-19?

A: DARTS provides services to help older adults stay engaged in the community and live in home of their choice. COVID-19 has caused older adults to isolate themselves and their caregivers are either isolated from their loved one or unable to have respite from them. The need for our services grew and we had to rapidly adapt to be able to provide them safely.

Q: What was the most immediate impact your organization faced during the onset of COVID-19?

A: DARTS provides bus rides for groups of older adults, as well as individuals. The group rides stopped immediately on March 13. We took our bus capacity to help fill a need that older adults were not able or willing to go out to food shelves to get groceries by partnering with area food shelves to help deliver those food supports.

Q: What do you see as the long-term impact COVID-19 will have on your organization?

A: How we gather as older adults will be affected for months to come and so we are becoming more nimble with technology to supplement in-person meetings and group gatherings. COVID-19 will help those with means to rely more on technology and it will make the gap larger between those who have resources and those who do not.

Q: How have you addressed employee mental health and wellness during this time?

A: We added intentional time during team meetings to talk about COVID related stress and social justice issues. We hold regular optional coffee breaks so that people can still connect, leaders are proactively reaching out to their team, we are allowing flexibility for those who can to work from home and we got brightly colored DARTS shirts for employees - a cheerful reminder as to how important they are to our community."

Keep an eye out for future renditions of “COVID-19 Nonprofit Stories,” as we continue to gather insight from the nonprofit sector. In the meantime, check out our COVID-19 Resource Center for more nonprofit-specific content—including unemployment insights, workforce trends, employee wellness tips, COVID-19 FAQs and more!

October 23, 2020

2020 Employee Engagement Toolkit

As the pandemic continues to impact the way we work—with no end date in sight—many employees are left feeling disengaged and unmotivated. To help nonprofit leaders rethink (and prioritize) the employee experience, we've compiled our top resources to create the 2020 Employee Engagement Toolkit

Now more than ever, it's critical that you foster a positive work culture where employees feel valued, involved and supported. This free toolkit includes a helpful checklist, a survey template, best practice tips and more:

  1. Employee Engagement Survey Template
  2. Employee Engagement Checklist for Leaders
  3. 6 Employee Engagement Best Practice Tips
  4. 5 Creative Ways to Celebrate Your Team
  5. Back-to-School FAQs: DOL Guidance on FFCRA Leave for Employees
  6. 7 Tips to Help Keep Your Nonprofit Employees Mentally Sound
  7. Blog: 5 Ways to Offer Your Support During a Time of Crisis
  8. Webinar Recording: Employee Engagement & Mental Wellness Strategies During COVID-19

Would you like access to more HR-specific articles, templates and checklists? Sign up for a free 60-day Trial of UST HR Workplace today! You'll also gain access to live, certified HR consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library and more.

October 15, 2020

[Webinar Recording] UST Live: Developing a Sustainable Strategy for 2021

 

UST's latest interactive webinar series, "UST Live," brings the collective expertise of reputable nonprofit leaders to you—live—in virtual panel discussions.

In our second UST Live webinar, the panel discussed new (and successful) strategies nonprofit leaders have implemented since COVID-19 began, as well as common hurdles nonprofits are facing with future strategy development. Plus, get YOUR questions answered first-hand by your nonprofit peers—who have tremendous experience in strategic thinking and organizational sustainability best practices.

Watch now to discover:

  • Common hurdles nonprofit leaders encountered (and overcame) during COVID-19
  • Tactics utilized for refining existing strategies and developing new ones altogether
  • Successful operational strategies that were implemented after the pandemic began
  • Ideas on how to develop sustainable strategies for 2021

Upcoming UST Live Webinars: In our final session for 2020—scheduled for November 19th—we'll discuss innovative recruitment best practices that can help nonprofits attract quality job candidates during (and after) a pandemic.

October 08, 2020

HR Question: Reducing Pay Due to COVID-19

Question: Can we reduce pay because of an economic slowdown due to COVID-19?

Answer: You can reduce an employee’s rate of pay based on business or economic slowdown, provided that this is not done retroactively. For instance, if you give employees notice that their pay will change on the 10th, and your payroll period runs from the 1st through the 15th, make sure that their next check still reflects the higher rate of pay for the first 9 days of the payroll period.

Nonexempt employees (those entitled to overtime) - A nonexempt employee’s new rate of pay must still meet the applicable federal, state, or local minimum wage. Employees must be given notice of the change to their rate of pay, and some states require advance notice.

Exempt employees (those not entitled to overtime) - An exempt employee’s new salary must still be at or above the federal or state minimum for exempt employees. The federal minimum salary is $684 per week. Several states have weekly minimums that are higher than that (California and New York, for instance, are in the $1,000 per week range). The minimum may not be prorated based on hours worked.

Exempt employee reclassification - If an exempt employee has so little work to do that it does not make sense to pay them the federal or state minimum (or you simply cannot afford to), they can be reclassified as nonexempt and be paid by the hour instead. This must not be done on a very short-term basis. Although there are no hard and fast rules about how long you can reclassify someone, it is recommended that you don’t change their classification unless you expect the slowdown to last for more than three weeks. Changing them back and forth frequently could cause you to lose their exemption retroactively and potentially owe years of overtime.

Employees with contracts or CBAs - If employees have employment contracts or are subject to collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs), you should consult with an attorney before making any changes to pay.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial here.

September 30, 2020

COVID-19 Nonprofit Story: National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

As nonprofit employers continue to navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19, UST decided to compile a blog series that illustrates how nonprofits and their employees have been coping with the unexpected challenges of the Coronavirus. Each blog will spotlight one organization and the personal hurdles and workforce strategies they have encountered throughout this pandemic.

Our first story comes from one of our dedicated UST members, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. (NORD). Located on the East coast, NORD is very near the epicenter of where the Coronavirus transmission began. A patient advocacy organization, NORD is dedicated to helping individuals with rare diseases and the organizations that serve them through programs of education, advocacy, research and patient services.

Q: In general, how has your nonprofit been impacted by COVID-19?

A: We moved to having all staff working from home. Since two of our organization’s offices are located in Southern New England and the third is in Washington D.C., and these were the areas of the country that were first impacted, the states and locations where we are located basically closed businesses—and offices we were forced to work from home.

Q: What was the most immediate impact your organization faced during the onset of COVID-19?

A: We were required to purchase laptops and other electronic equipment for some of our staff so they could work from home. We also had to change various events from being in person to being remote/virtual.

Q: What do you see as the long-term impact COVID-19 will have on your organization?

A: We will probably have staff working either full time from home or have them come into the office less often. As far as events, I think they will eventually be held in person, though I am not certain.

Q: How have you addressed employee mental health and wellness during this time?

A: We have had one virtual all staff meeting, which was well received, plus we send out a newsletter each week which contains information about what the staff members are doing during this "new normal". In addition, we have software which allows the individual staff members to connect via video with each other during the day which allows them to maintain some sense of "normalness."

Keep an eye out for future renditions of the blog series, “COVID-19 Nonprofit Stories,” as we continue to gather insight from the nonprofit sector. Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center for more nonprofit-specific content—including unemployment insights, workforce trends, employee wellness tips, COVID-19 FAQs and more!

September 22, 2020

[Webinar Recording] UST Live: Employee Management Strategies

To help nonprofits combat the most prevalent day-to-day workforce challenges caused by COVID-19, UST has launched a NEW interactive webinar series called "UST Live." We're collaborating with reputable nonprofit leaders & HR experts across the U.S. to bring their collective expertise to you—live—in hour-long, virtual panel discussions.

In our first UST Live webinar, the panel discussed the innovative employee management strategies that are being used for onboarding, training, employee development and employee engagement during these difficult times. Plus, the panel answered attendee’s questions related to HR best practices and employee relations management.

Watch now to discover:

  • Tactics on how to effectively onboard new staff during a pandemic
  • How employee training processes have evolved since the onset of COVID-19
  • Common hurdles nonprofits are facing with prioritizing employee development
  • Ideas on how to keep employees engaged and mentally well

Upcoming UST Live Webinars: This webinar series was designed to equip nonprofits with the strategies and resources they need to survive (and thrive) throughout this pandemic. Be sure to register for our next UST webinars—scheduled for October 15th and November 19th—where we'll discuss how to develop a sustainable strategy for 2021 as well as innovative recruitment best practices.

September 18, 2020

2020 UST Workforce Re-Entry Toolkit

 

As states begin to loosen their social distancing restrictions, nonprofit employers are beginning to strategize a return-to-work plan while staying compliant with state, local and federal guidelines. To equip nonprofit leaders with the resources they need to safely re-enter the workplace, we compiled the 2020 Workforce Re-Entry Toolkit

While the decision to reopen will vary from employer to employer, having a thoughtful strategy in place will help minimize employee concern and solidify any new policies well in advance of re-entry. This free toolkit includes essential checklists, letter templates, sample policies and response plans:

  • Return to Work Employer Checklist
  • COVID-19 Employer FAQs
  • Checklist: Preparing the Workspace for Re-Entry
  • Survey: Employee Readiness to Return to Work
  • Employer Guide: Deciding Who Returns
  • COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policies
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Poster
  • Sample Welcome Back Letter
  • Quick Response Plan for Infected Employees
  • Sample Communication Regarding Infection in the Workplace
  • Webinar Recording: Preparing to Re-Entry to the Workplace

Would you like access to more HR-specific articles, templates and checklists? Sign up for a free 60-day Trial of UST HR Workplace today! You'll also gain access to live, certified HR consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, and extensive compliance library and more.

September 01, 2020

Back-to-School FAQs About Leave Under the FFCRA

The end of summer traditionally signals the start of a busy period for employers and HR professionals, as they update their policies to reflect regulatory changes, complete their HR initiatives for the year, and start their next-year planning. This fall promises to be especially active given the continuing pandemic and related HR challenges.

The start of the 2020-2021 school year has created confusion and disruption for both employers and their employees. As a result, ThinkHR, powering UST HR Workplace, has been fielding urgent questions about how to handle a variety of situations, including how online vs. in-person school impacts employee leave. Following are some of the most common questions received and their responses.

Q: If children and their parents can choose between in-person schooling or online schooling, can we deny leave to employees who choose online schooling?

A: We don’t know yet. EFMLA can be used when a child’s school or place of care is “closed,” such that the child cannot be there in person. This might suggest that if the option is available to attend in-person, that those choosing online school would not be eligible for leave. However, we expect that many school districts will need a certain percentage of students to take classes online to make in-person school possible at a sufficiently reduced capacity. In effect, these schools will be “closed” to a certain portion of the student body and it may or may not matter whether the parents chose the online option. We expect guidance from the Department of Labor soon that will answer this question definitively.

Q: If kids are going to school in-person two days a week and doing school from home three days a week, do we have to give a parent three days a week off or can we refuse intermittent leave?

A: If you’re in the Southern District of New York, you must grant intermittent EFMLA if that is what an employee needs and asks for. That district includes the counties of Bronx, Dutchess, New York, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester.

In the rest of the country, the answer is not clear, but we certainly recommend providing intermittent leave (as does the Department of Labor). Employees with children are in desperate need of flexibility and understanding right now and refusing a request for intermittent leave may lead to low morale, low productivity, or the employee quitting.

Keep in mind that not all employees will want a full day off just because a child is doing school from home — many may request an hour or two in the morning and an hour or two in the afternoon. Being open to these kinds of requests should help you maximize productivity (as much as possible under tough circumstances) and reduce turnover.

Q: Can we set up childcare or tutoring in the workplace?

A: While it may be possible (and we applaud the creativity), you’d want to consult with an attorney or someone else in your state that is familiar with the kind of licensing and insurance that would be required to do this. Even if you were only allowing children in the workplace occasionally, and they remained under the control of their parent, you’d want to check with your general liability carrier to make sure that it would cover incidents that involved a visiting child.

Q: Can I deny leave to an employee who has high schoolers who should be able to take care of themselves during the day?

A: No. However, if the child or children are 15 or older, you should require that the employee provide a statement or affirmation that there are special circumstances that cause the older child to need their care. They do not need to provide any further information beyond that statement (such as what the special circumstances are). If you feel it necessary, you can remind all employees that it is fraudulent to take FFCRA leave if they are not unable to work as a result of the care they will be providing. 

Q: Can we require proof that the school or place of care is closed?

A: No. You can and should (for IRS documentation) require the names and ages of the child or children being cared for and the name of the school, place of care, or caregiver that is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19. You should also require a signed statement that the employee is unable to work because they need to provide care for the child or children. Finally, if the child or children are 15 or older, the employee needs to indicate that there are special circumstance (but doesn’t need to explain them).

We don’t encourage independent sleuthing to verify what an employee tells you, but if you feel that’s necessary, be very careful of doing anything that could infringe on an employee’s right to privacy. Also be consistent in verifying this kind of information — if you are only fact-checking certain employees, you’ll open yourself up to complaints of unfair treatment.

Q:  Can I ask an employee to look for different childcare if their usual provider is unavailable?

A: No. An employee is entitled to leave if the child's usual care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 — they are under no obligation to look for alternatives, and any attempt on your part to require that would be illegal interference with their right to leave.

Q: Can I deny leave if I think or know an employee is lying about the need to care for a child?

A: There is significant risk in denying a request for FFCRA leave if an employee has provided the appropriate documentation. That said, if you believe the request is fraudulent, you should have a discussion with the employee before granting or denying leave. If it turns out that they were submitting a fraudulent request — and you have sufficient evidence to support that — you can take disciplinary action if it seems appropriate. If, after discussion, you think their request is more likely than not legitimate, you should grant it.

Be careful of disciplining an employee who requests leave but doesn’t meet the necessary criteria. These leave entitlements can be confusing, and it would be unlawful retaliation to discipline an employee who was attempting to use their right to leave in good faith.    

Q: If an employee’s stay-at-home spouse is sick with COVID-19 and unable to care for their children, can they take FFCRA leave to do so?

A: Yes, the children’s regular care provider (the stay-at-home spouse) is unavailable because of COVID-19, so the employee would be able to use either EPSL or EFMLA to provide care while their spouse is not able to do so.

Q: What if an employee won’t fill out the required FFCRA documentation?

A: The earliest an employer can require notice is after the first workday of FFCRA leave. (The regulations require employees to provide notice of their need for school closure leave as soon as practicable, but there are no consequences if the employee doesn't do so.) If, after the first workday, the employee does not provide sufficient documentation to support their request for leave, they must be notified of the problem and given an opportunity to provide what is needed. If the employee still does not provide completed documentation after being given a reasonable opportunity to do so, then the employer is not required to provide FFCRA leave.  

Q: Can we terminate an employee who is unable to work because they need to care for a child but have used up their leave under the FFCRA?

A: Assuming that no other leave laws apply, termination is an option. But you may want to instead consider offering the employee an unpaid personal leave of absence or revisiting whether a flexible or part-time work schedule would be better than losing the employee entirely. Recruiting, hiring, and training are all expensive undertakings, so if there’s a way to keep an employee around — even if they need some time off — that is likely better for your bottom line.

If you do decide to terminate an employee who is out of leave, make sure you can be consistent in that response going forward. If you are flexible with some employees while firing others, you will open yourself up to claims of discrimination.   

Q: What if we find out after we’ve granted and paid for an employee’s leave that it was fraudulent? Do we make them pay us back or report them to the IRS?

A: There is not yet clear guidance about how to handle this situation, so we recommend calling your local Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. They are generally very responsive and may be able to provide some guidance based on your situation.

The U.S. Department of Labor will continue to provide compliance assistance to employers and its employees on their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA. The full 100-question Department of Labor FAQ can be found here.

This Q&A was provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Sign up for your FREE 60-day trialand test drive UST’s online HR platform! You’ll find HR-specific articles, templates and checklists as well as access to a plethora of tools including a live HR consultant, 300+ on-demand training courses and an extensive compliance library.

August 28, 2020

Help Your Employees Better Manage Stress

As we continue working from home—isolated from loved ones, juggling work/life balance and trying to make sense of this seemingly never-ending pandemic—stress levels are at an all-time high. So it's more important than ever to ensure the well-being of your workforce.

The harmful side effects of long-term stress can lead to increased absenteeism, poor work quality and decreased morale. Taking the time to show you care about your employees' mental health, by developing activities and resources that help alleviate stress, can create a sustainable, positive workplace.

Without effective mental health resources in place, it could cost your organization its best employees. Uncover 7 Tips to Keep Your Nonprofit Employees Mentally Sound to help foster an engaged workforce during these uncertain times.

Would you like access to more HR-specific articles, templates and checklists? Sign up for a FREE 60-Day UST HR Workplace Trial today! (Use priority code "2020HR-Content" to expedite your request).

August 21, 2020

Nonprofit Sector Layoffs Surge Due to Pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed the economy into a sudden and deep recession, impacting local businesses as well as a number of large corporations. But the effects of this pandemic on the nonprofit organization has been even more substantial and unfortunately, gone unnoticed. Many citizens rely on the services nonprofits provide such as, social services, medical care and spiritual community. Tens of thousands of nonprofits are likely to close without the support of some kind of rescue package to help keep their doors open. The nonprofit sector is the nation’s third-largest private employer, with 1.3 million nonprofits employing nearly 12.5 million people—about 10 percent of the total number of people working in the private sector.

According to the John Hopkins University 2020 Nonprofit Unemployment Report, more than 1.6 million nonprofit jobs have been lost between March and May of 2020. Private education nonprofits lost an estimated 323,201 jobs, while health care lost an estimated 574,530. As we know, nonprofits come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from large organizations, like city hospitals to small mom and pop thrift shops that help support local charities. No matter the size, nonprofits have been severely impacted by the pandemic in more ways than one. Many nonprofits are unable to perform normal day-to-days tasks due to the number of shutdowns and social distancing requirements. For food pantries and free clinics, the economic disruption has caused an increase in clients in need of these services. While many think of nonprofits as running predominately on donations, roughly half of their revenue come from billing for services, a third from government contracts and grants, and only about 9 percent from individual donations.

While some foundations and charitable-giving funds have seen an increase in their donations, other nonprofits have not had the same luck due to relying on revenue-generating activities and fundraising. Making it not only difficult to keep people on the payroll but also impacting long-term viability of their organization.

Many nonprofits were eligible for federal pandemic aid under the Paycheck Protection Program, which extended potentially forgivable loans to small employers to keep workers on the payroll. But qualifying for such aid can be difficult. Give Kids the World received $1.75 million, however, organizations like the Y.M.C.A. of Metropolitan Chicago were left out because they had more than 500 employees.

The nonprofit sector has more of an impact on the overall economy than many realize—offering crucial contributions to the country’s health, education, social service, and cultural activities. Nonprofits not only make up the country’s third largest workforce but also generate the third largest payroll of any national industry while making important contributions to the tax revenue of the country’s national, state, and local governments. The devastation of this pandemic has put many individuals out of work while closing the doors of many other beloved nonprofits—putting pressure on the vital services these organizations offer their communities.

August 13, 2020

UST Launches New Video – Simplify Your Nonprofit’s Recruitment & Onboarding Processes

For over three decades, UST has been providing nonprofits with HR solutions that help manage day-to-day workforce issues, ensure compliance, and maximize employee bandwidth. By offering essential tools such as the job description builder, customizable online employee training tracks, and onboarding checklist, UST helps nonprofits maximize productivity and increase employee engagement.

As part of UST’s ongoing efforts to strengthen and educate 501(c)(3) organizations, we’re excited to announce the recent launch of our newest short video—designed to provide a snapshot of UST’s cloud-based HR platform. About a minute long, this video highlights tools that allow nonprofit employers to navigate the many complex realms of human resource management with ease—including recruitment and employee training.

Check out our newest video today to discover how our virtual HR services can help streamline your nonprofit’s HR processes and simplify day-to-day tasks—so you can focus more time on what matters most: keeping your mission-driven initiatives moving forward.  

Test drive UST’s online HR platform today and explore some of these essential HR checklists and training solutions for yourself! Sign up for your FREE 60-Day HR Trial here!

August 07, 2020

Nonprofit eBook Reveals Strategies to Secure Nonprofit Endurance

UST releases a new eBook, focused on positive brand perception in today’s increasingly competitive job market.

Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST publishes an eBook that discusses the importance of ensuring you have a solid brand reputation and why. This insightful eBook uncovers strategies that nonprofit employers can utilize to attract employees that fit their organization’s culture, mission, and values—and keep them.

Available now for download, UST’s eBook explores 5 key strategies that can help strengthen your organization's culture through inclusivity, innovation and trust.

You'll also discover:

  • Why it's important to evaluate your employer’s brand
  • How to increase productivity and improve bandwidth
  • Methods to create cultural diversity in the workplace

Don’t miss your opportunity to download your complimentary copy of “A Collective Strength: Strategies to Secure Nonprofit Endurance” to discover how to attract better talent and promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.

July 29, 2020

2020 UST Nonprofit HR Toolkit

Here at UST we’ve put together our Top 10 Guides for 2020 Nonprofit Human Resource management. And for a limited time, we’re giving them away for FREE.

Since 1983, UST has provided nonprofits with the latest HR resources in an effort to help organizations stay compliant, maximize employee bandwidth and reduce overhead costs. This toolkit includes updated 2020 state and local minimum wage data and recordkeeping requirements, as well as a variety of checklists to ensure compliance. Plus, you can discover facts surrounding COVID-19 laws and the latest workplace protocol.

  • State and Local Minimum Wage
  • Federal Recordkeeping Requirements
  • ACA Employer Compliance Checklist
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
  • COVID-19 Fact vs. Fiction
  • Employee Handbook Self-Audit
  • Involuntary Termination Checklist
  • New Employee Onboarding Checklist
  • Webinar Recording: Preparing for Re-Entry to the Workplace
  • UST Program Evaluation Form  

Still have questions? You can get a free 60-day trial of UST HR Workplace, powered by ThinkHR. This cloud-based HR platform offers a live expert hotline, 300+ online training and compliance courses, compensation tools, employee handbook builders and employee classification step-by-step guides. Set up your ThinkHR Trial today!

July 09, 2020

HR Question: Replacing Employees Not Ready to Return to Work

Question: Some of our employees have said they don't feel safe returning to work. Can we just permanently replace them?

Answer: We recommend extreme caution when deciding to replace an employee who refuses to work because of concerns about COVID-19. Generally, employees do not have a right to refuse to work based only on a generalized fear of becoming ill if their fear is not based on objective evidence of possible exposure. However, under the current circumstances, where COVID-19 continues to be a threat across the country, we think it would be difficult to show that employees have no reason to fear coming in to work, particularly but not exclusively in a location with a shelter-in-place rule. Returning employees may also have certain rights under state and federal law. Here are few things to keep in mind:

  • Recalled employees may have a right to job-protected leave under a city ordinance, state law, or the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). See our overview of the FFCRA.
  • Employees who are in a high-risk category — either because they are immunocompromised or have an underlying condition that makes them more susceptible to the disease — may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or state law if their situation doesn’t qualify them for leave under the FFCRA (or if they have run out of that leave). It would be a reasonable accommodation under the circumstances to allow the employee to work from home or take an unpaid leave, if working from home is not possible.
  • Employees who live with someone who is high risk are not entitled to a reasonable accommodation under federal law, but we strongly recommend allowing them to work from home if possible or take an unpaid leave. Otherwise, they may decide to quit and collect unemployment insurance. If you want to keep them as an employee, being compassionate and flexible is your best bet.
  • Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules, an employee’s refusal to perform a task will be protected if all of the following conditions are met:
    • Where possible, the employee asked the employer to eliminate the danger, and the employer failed to do so;
    • The employee refused to work in “good faith,” which means that the employee must genuinely believe that an imminent danger exists;
    • A reasonable person would agree that there is a real danger of death or serious injury; and
    • There isn’t enough time, because of the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.

Check state and local law to see if additional protections may apply.

Instead of replacing employees who express fear at this time, we recommend that you consider methods to encourage employees to come to work and to help put their minds at ease. Consider emphasizing all of the safety methods you have put in place (such as scheduled handwashing, frequent disinfection of surfaces, social distancing rules, reduced customer capacity, staggered shifts, or more extreme measures if warranted by your industry). We recommend relying on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health department guidance for establishing safe working conditions at this time. You might also consider offering premium pay (a.k.a. hazard pay) or additional paid time off for use in the future to employees who must come to work.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial today.

 

July 01, 2020

Guidance for Nonprofits When Returning to Work

As nonprofit organizations prepare to return to business as usual, there are quite a few new safety protocols being put in place to ensure that employees return to a safe work environment. The Center for Disease Control – CDC continues to release updated guidelines for employers to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. When making decisions around business operations, two main components should be factored in: (1) the level of disease transmission in your community and (2) how prepared your business is to protect both your employees and customers.

Employers are encouraged to coordinate with their state and local health officials to acquire timely and accurate information to provide updates to employees as needed. If your nonprofit’s business operations were put on hold, or are gearing up for workforce re-entry, this is an opportunity to update your COVID-19 preparedness, response and control plans.

When making the appropriate updates to your organization’s COVID-19 plans, the following items should be included:

  • It must speak specifically to your workplace environment
  • It must mention all possible job tasks and areas in the workplace that could lead to possible exposure to COVID-19
  • It must include the appropriate measures that will be taken to eliminate or reduce these exposures

Be sure to take the time to communicate with your employees of any changes and ask for their input—their questions and concerns can ensure all your bases are covered when creating the COVID-19 plan for your organization. Educating our employees on the severity of taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and others safe is vital. To protect themselves while at work and at home, new policies and procedures related to illness, cleaning and disinfecting should be followed.

To ensure a safe workplace environment, employers should advise their employees of the following:

  • If an employee is sick, they should stay home except if they are going to a doctor’s appointment to receive medical care
  • If an employee’s family member is sick at home, they must alert their supervisor
  • Avoid working in other employees’ work spaces and avoid using their office equipment
  • Practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings while maintaining a distance of 6 feet
  • Wash their hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching their face with unwashed hands
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces or objects

While there is much more to learn about the severity and characteristics of this virus, as a nonprofit employer, you can do your part to follow important guidelines to create a safe and healthy working environment for your dedicated employees.

June 26, 2020

The UST COVID-19 Nonprofit Employer Guide

Are you still trying to figure out how to navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19 and its impact on your nonprofit and its employees? When you download UST’s new employer guide, 3 Critical Steps to Maintain a Resilient Nonprofit During COVID-19, you'll discover helpful tips on maintaining your nonprofits operations during the current pandemic and beyond.

This short employer guide shares valuable insights and key strategies for securing your brand during times of crisis, including: 

  • Equipping your staff with the tools they need to stay productive at home
  • Supporting employee mental health and well-being during a time of uncertainty
  • Preparing to re-enter the workplace

This guide will not only enable you to stay on top of strategy development, but also equip you with the tools you need to help your employees feel safe. Download your FREE copy today!

June 16, 2020

[Webinar Recording] Preparing for Re-Entry to the Workplace

Nonprofit employers have faced unimaginable challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as states start permitting businesses to reopen, nonprofits across the country are trying to figure out what that looks like for them, their employees and the communities they serve.

This informative webinar recording provides helpful tips for preparing to welcome employees back to the office while maintaining compliance with state and federal regulations related to the Coronavirus. Watch now to discover:

  • Important workplace health and safety measures
  • Ways to return employees to the office in phases
  • How to handle common areas in the office
  • And more general best practices

For additional COVID-19 employer resources and FAQs, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center today!

June 10, 2020

UST Supports Nonprofits Who Fight for Social Justice & Equity

UST is deeply saddened by the series of disturbing and tragic events that have taken place over the last few weeks related to the violence and injustice toward the Black community—including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. The resulting protests have created a long overdue flashpoint for awareness, action, and change. 

UST has supported the nonprofit community for over 35 years and we are proud of the impact that each of our members have in their communities. We know that communities that have nonprofit organizations established within experience less crime, such as murder, violent crime and crimes against property. Sharkey’s work also affirms some of the tenets of community policing: that neighborhoods are vital to policing themselves, and that they can address the complex roots of violence in ways that fall beyond traditional police work. Whether it is taking back the public parks, establishing mentorship programs for youth or implementing job training and employment opportunities, these all make a difference. But. That. Is. Not. Enough.

UST does not do this work directly but we support the organizations who do in their efforts, their ideals and their fight for more social justice and equity in communities across the nation. We are fortunate to have a strong board of Trustees who are all working in their own spaces for change. We think our current Board Chair, Karen Beavor, CEO of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits has expressed our sentiments exceptionally well. View her complete message here.

UST will continue to support the work our nonprofit members do to address these issues; we will listen, and will actively look for ways to be part of the change that is so desperately needed.

June 04, 2020

HR Question: Screening Employees Returning to Work

 

Question: Can we screen employees returning to work for COVID-19?

Answer: Yes. Generally, inquiries about an employee’s health or a medical exam (like a temperature check) would not be allowed, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that screening employees for symptoms of COVID-19 is allowed since it is a direct threat to others in the workplace. Because of that, you may inquire about symptoms related to the virus, require self-reporting by employees, and take employees’ temperatures.

Known symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and sudden loss of taste or smell. As the medical community learns more about COVID-19, additional symptoms could be added to this list. Employers can check this page for currently recognized symptoms.

If you decide to do screenings, make sure you screen all employees; otherwise you may find yourself in the middle of a discrimination claim. And remember that all information about employees’ health — including a lack of symptoms or temperature — must be kept confidential.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial today.

May 29, 2020

Tips for Ensuring Your Nonprofit Isn’t Scammed During COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines—in more ways than anticipated. While cybercriminals are always looking for ways to scam victims, pandemics provide additional opportunities for fraud. As people are spending more time than ever on their smart phones, iPads, and computers for work, shopping and entertainment, cybercriminals are ramping up their activities and getting more creative with their methods of hacking unsuspecting victims.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are using COVID-19 to further target consumers and businesses alike. They’re setting up websites, contacting people by phone and email, and posting dishonest information on social media platforms. Being aware of the different types of scams out there is the first step in protecting yourself, your business and your employees. Knowing how to handle those scams can save you a great deal of headache down the road.

The following are some examples of scams linked just to COVID-19:

  • Government Check Scams – Attempt to get you to make a payment in return for available business funds.
  • Business Email Scams – Create dummy accounts that look like they come from a company executive asking an employee to make a financial transaction.
  • IT Scams – Emails that appear to come from your tech team asking for a password or directing your employee to download infected software.
  • Supply and Shopping Scams – Create fake stores, e-commerce websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell high demand supplies like hand sanitizer and face masks. 
  • Robocall Scams – Use a recording that appears to come from Google to target small businesses who may be affected by the Coronavirus, warning them to “ensure your Google listing is correctly displaying. Otherwise, customers may not find you online during this time.”
  • Phishing and Malware Scams - Gain access to your computer to steal your credentials. 
    • Malware is malicious software or viruses that can be activated when you click on email attachments or install risky software.  
    • Phishing is used to convince you to share sensitive data such as passwords or credit card information by pretending to be someone you know.

Take the following precautionary measures to protect your organization and its employees from known and emerging scams:

  • Independently verify the identity of any company, charity or individual that contacts you regarding any COVID-19 related content.
  • Ensure you’re using reliable resources to get up-to-date information on the Coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites are your safest sources.
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 as well as anyone requesting personal information. Fraudulent emails may be infected with malware designed to capture keystrokes, credentials, or payment information.
  • Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources.
  • Make sure your anti-malware and anti-virus software programs are operating and up to date.
  • Use secure login methods such as requiring multiple password authentication for remote employees.
  • Secure home networks by using encryption which scrambles information sent over a wireless  connection so outsiders can’t read it.
  • Never provide personal information to anyone who calls out of the blue.

With so many people working remote, hackers are looking for companies to drop their defenses, making it easier to infiltrate networks. When people are aware of what scams are out there, they are much less likely to fall for them. Talk about the risks with your management team, create a simplified outline of what to look for, and how to respond and relay to your entire staff.