Expert Commentary

Employer Perspectives and Priorities during a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is upending the way employers conduct regular business operations. Most industries now face a wide variety of challenges, including dislocation of their workforce, lost revenues, changing priorities, and employee safety, to name a few.


Workers Compensation Issues
June 2020

Three industry experts joined us for our special edition Out Front Ideas COVID-19 Briefing Webinar Series to discuss the major issues facing each of their industries.

  • Shaun Jackson—executive director of risk management, Panda Restaurant Group, Inc.
  • Rich Reynolds—senior manager of workers compensation, Providence St. Joseph Health Shared Services
  • Steven Robles—assistant CEO, Los Angeles County

Public Entity

Public entities face a host of different issues based on their location throughout the COVID-19 crisis. One of our guests explained the significant issues facing public entities currently.

Resource Drain on Risk Management

Risk managers that typically handle workers compensation, liability, finance, safety, privacy, and contracts for public entities are being outsourced to function as disaster service workers, making resources limited. Up to 60 percent of Los Angeles County's risk managers are being utilized for disaster management.

Cyber and Privacy Challenges

Some employees are working remotely, but most public entities were not set up for a large portion of the workforce to shift to remote work. Currently, counties are learning how to manage security concerns associated with this shift by adding layers of privacy, like virtual private networks.

Workers Compensation Presumptions

The resulting costs of presumptions for first responders and other essential employees within the public entity realm could increase costs by 30–50 percent. If post-traumatic stress disorder is included in presumption laws, it could result in an additional 10–15 percent increase. Public entities are cutting back budgets to mitigate expenses, but additional costs could lead to potential layoffs.

Employees Returning to Work

Public entities consist of both frontline and remote employees. Plans are being developed to phase in remote workers while still reducing possible exposure for both groups of employees. Concerns like childcare access and shielding more susceptible populations, such as the elderly and immunocompromised, are all being considered.

Health Care

As one of the most drastically affected industries, healthcare employers have to adjust to the constant challenges of COVID-19. One of our guests shares the most pressing concerns facing the industry.

Personal Protective Equipment Shortages

The healthcare industry is enlisting other businesses and organizations to fabricate masks and ramp up production of protective gear as they face a lack of necessary protection for frontline employees caring for COVID-19 patients.

Uncertainty of the Future

Without having enough information about COVID-19, there are many questions to be asked: Are states reopening too quickly? Will we face a second wave of cases and deaths? Do we have the testing capabilities that allow a return to our normal daily lives?

Financial Impact of Elective Procedures

Due to the massive influx of COVID-19 patients, elective procedures are temporarily on hold. This pause has created a financial strain on a healthcare system that relies on these procedures.

Telemedicine Development

One of the positive outcomes of COVID-19 has been increased access to telemedicine. If this becomes a more cost-effective alternative, it could mean a decrease in brick-and-mortar healthcare locations and a possible change in overall business models.

Restaurants

The restaurant industry is facing one of the most challenging times in its history. Still, some with overseas operations were preparing as early as December, knowing the United States would eventually be affected. One of our guests discussed the industry's challenges and how they are adapting.

Reworking Business Continuity and Crisis Response Programs

Due to the state-by-state and county-by-county differences in stay-at-home orders, all crisis responses had to be retooled. Most of these plans had a great framework, but because of the variances per jurisdiction, the industry could not replicate and impose these plans. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have made it easier to track COVID-19 hot spots, allowing restaurants to manage location openings.

Defining the Essential Workforce

Restaurant employers are working with local health officials to identify which employees within a restaurant are essential. Since employers are at the mercy of the latest emergency guidance per jurisdiction, these efforts to comply help build relationships within each market.

Public Relations and Media Response

Since many jurisdictions are requiring guests to wear face masks in public, restaurants are now having to learn how to respond to those opposing these restrictions. Knowing possible confrontation with these guests could occur, employers are responding by educating employees on how best to respond in these situations. Health departments are now also publishing lists of locations where five or more employees have tested positive for COVID-19, so restaurants are now facing possible damage control if deemed an "outbreak location."

Contact Tracing

Restaurants are moving forward with their own models of contact tracing for cases of COVID-19, knowing that a government model could take time to develop. They have set up their own process of quarantining and monitoring to prevent further transmission of the virus, knowing that any outbreaks could damage their reputation.

Change management, flexibility, and risk management have exposed their critical importance in business operations throughout this pandemic. Knowing this, all organizations will need to rethink their continuity plans as they address the complexities of reopening and returning to work. Because we know businesses will never again operate under the same model, there is an ever-increasing need to think differently and to work together across multiple industries to share insights and develop the best plans for the future.

Listen to the full Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark webinar on this topic. Stay tuned for more from the Out Front Ideas COVID-19 Briefing Webinar Series, and view the full list of upcoming topics.


Mark Walls is vice president of communications and strategic analysis for Safety National. See his full bio.


Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author's employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.

Like This Article?

IRMI Update

Dive into thought-provoking industry commentary every other week, including links to free articles from industry experts. Discover practical risk management tips, insight on important case law and be the first to receive important news regarding IRMI products and events.

Learn More