Employers are broadening their efforts to help their workers cope with COVID-19 while at the same time preparing for an eventual return to a stable workplace.
This is according to the “COVID-19 Employer Readiness Survey” by Willis Towers Watson, which found that 97% of the 654 employers surveyed are promoting physical distancing as well as increased cleaning and access to disinfection for those employees who are not able to work remotely.
Employers reported a dramatic increase in remote work, as 39% said over three-quarters of their workers could now work remotely, up from just 14% before the pandemic.
Well-being — both physical and emotional — remains a primary consideration for employers. Many employers are shaping an effective course of action by increasing employee access to virtual medical care. The survey found that 86% of employers are promoting use of telemedicine, a nurse line or virtual visits for medical concerns. Additionally, 58% of employers are increasing access to telebehavioral health, and an additional 14% plan to do so. For those employees who contract the virus, 41% of employers report they will waive out-of-pocket costs for treatment.
To encourage access to prescription drugs during the pandemic, 37% are relaxing supply limitations for non-specialty drugs (i.e., allowing 90-day supplies of medicines that otherwise are dispensed 30 days at a time); another 7% plan to do so.
“Protecting the health of employees, customers and the community is a prime concern for all employers,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., leader, North American Health Management practice, Willis Towers Watson. “Organizations recognize their employees are going through a difficult period and are taking action to help them manage through the health and economic aspects of this crisis.”
Half (55%) of employers would provide salary continuation for a median of two weeks if an employee is out of work on self-quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure. Additionally, to help workers deal with challenges when a family member is ill, more than four in five employers (84%) have policies that allow flexibility for employees to work from home if they are caring for a sick family member.
Employers often continue to require physician notes for employees for leave (56%) or for returning to work (68%) after COVID-19 illness, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discourages this practice. 88% of employers reported they have a business continuity plan in place, and 65% have an emergency command center, while 87% reported they would conduct post-event plan reviews to improve future emergency preparedness. Only 39% reported they had already instituted supervisor training specific to COVID-19.