On 28 May 2020, England and Scotland introduced contact tracing systems known as “Test and Trace” and “Test and Protect,” respectively. Northern Ireland has been operating a contact tracing system since 27 April 2020, and Wales introduced the “Test, Trace, Protect” system on 1 June 2020.
On May 29, 2020, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs issued further updates setting out the future of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
On May 21, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education, outlining recommendations and guidance on ways universities and colleges can safely open while helping to protect their students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community members. The CDC cautions that “[t]he more an individual interacts with others, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.”
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its continued impact on daily life, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order (EO) N-63-20 on May 7, 2020, extending certain statutory and regulatory deadlines for individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies in California. In addition to other temporary changes, EO N-63-20 extends the time for employees to file certain claims for unpaid wages with the state labor commissioner, the time for the state to issue certain workplace safety citations under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the time for employers to appeal such citations.
On May 27, 2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser issued Mayor’s Order No. 2020-067, implementing phase one of a three-stage reopening plan in the District of Columbia. Beginning on May 29, 2020, D.C. residents and visitors will no longer be required to stay at home and certain businesses will be permitted to resume normal operations, so long as they comply with applicable health and safety guidelines.
According to Statistics Canada, two in five employers in Canada have reduced hours or laid off one or more employees since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. One of the risks associated with those difficult decisions is a constructive dismissal claim that would trigger statutory notice and severance requirements under provincial employment standard legislation and under the common law. Ontario’s government has now taken a major step to prevent claims under its Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) resulting from COVID-19.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will resume premium processing via Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, in phases during the month of June.
On May 26, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation expanding the list of “Covered Services” permitted to reopen in Texas. The proclamation is consistent with Executive Order GA-23, which “continu[es] through June 3, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”
Because of travel restrictions, such as canceled flights and stay-at-home orders, the COVID-19 pandemic may have significantly limited a nonresident alien’s ability to leave the United States, regardless of whether the individual contracted the COVID-19 virus. An unexpected extended stay in the United States, however, could affect an individual’s tax residency classification or eligibility for certain tax treaty benefits. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released Revenue Procedure 2020-20 to address the potential tax consequences for eligible individuals impacted by the COVID-19 travel restrictions.
On May 27, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its guidance for employers performing construction work of all types. The agency’s guidance is not a standard or regulation, so it is not legally binding. Nonetheless, construction industry employers may want to consider OSHA’s recommendations when developing and updating their workplace safety and health plans, for two reasons. First, the guidance indicates which measures OSHA might allege are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause, just as it has done with heat stress, workplace violence, and other hazards for which it has no specific standard. Second, the document may indicate what employees may expect their employers to do as more people get back to work.
On 18 May 2020, at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week in the United Kingdom, the UK government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) published “Coronavirus and mental health at work,” a guide to how individuals can look after their mental health and how employers can “support employees’ health, safety, and well-being” while managing workplace mental health issues. The overriding message from the guidance is that good communication is key during this challenging time. The guidance also emphasises that employers should be aware of the signs of mental health concerns in the workplace and encourage openness between colleagues to support those who may be suffering.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will reopen some domestic offices to resume non-emergency services on June 4, 2020. USCIS suspended routine in-person services on March 18, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of their “COVID-secure” return to work plans, some employers in the United Kingdom are implementing temperature screenings for their employees.
In its ongoing response to the COVID-19 health crisis, the United States has announced travel restrictions for Brazil. President Donald Trump’s proclamation suspends the entry of all immigrants and nonimmigrants who were physically present in Brazil during the 14-day period before seeking to enter the United States.
Parts of the country have begun the process of returning to work, in places where COVID-19 infection rates have flattened or shown a decline. But the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 remains, and some employers may be faced with parts of their workforces refusing to return to work or to perform certain assignments, citing the health risk. What are employers’ options with respect to such employees? There are both legal and practical considerations.
On May 17, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a 60-page document entitled CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again. In the document, the CDC (1) explains and expands upon the gating criteria articulated in President Donald Trump’s Opening Up America Again guidelines; (2) outlines the CDC’s various COVID-19 activities and initiatives, including monitoring the continued progression of COVID-19, support of increased contact tracing capacity, and other activities; and (3) provides testing guidance.
With only 404 total positive test results, 44 hospitalizations, and 10 deaths statewide during the pandemic as of May 22, 2020, Alaska took a big step forward in reopening its economy and lifting restrictions on social interaction. Accordingly, during a recent press conference, Governor Mike Dunleavy announced that phase III of the Reopen Alaska Responsibly plan would begin on May 22.
In his Emergency Executive Order 20-56 issued on May 13, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signaled plans for a broad reopening of Minnesota businesses. Governor Walz expanded on earlier Executive Orders 20-40 and 20-48 (which reopened some non-critical businesses) by allowing additional non-critical businesses (such as malls and retail stores) to open on May 18, 2020, provided that these businesses have a “preparedness plan” in place.
On May 18, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-23 as part of his three-phase plan to reopen the economy in Texas. The three-phase plan is outlined in a report entitled “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas.” Executive Order GA-23 is Phase II of the plan and follows Executive Order GA-18 (issued April 27, 2020) and Executive Order GA-21 (issued May 5, 2020). Executive Order GA-23 “continu[es] through June 3, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC.”
Only one day before Arizona’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” order was set to expire, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued Executive Order (EO) 2020-33. Governor Ducey announced the modified extension of the stay-at-home order at a press conference on the afternoon of April 29, 2020. Consistent with the previous order, Arizonans must continue limiting their time away from their homes, except for participating in “Essential Activities,” employment in “Essential Functions,” and utilizing services or products of “Essential Businesses.”
Following the UK government’s recent announcement of a COVID-19 recovery strategy, the government has published guidelines for working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that are designed to help UK businesses get back on their feet while maintaining safe work environments.
Despite recently extending a state of emergency due to COVID-19 through June 11, 2020, Maine Governor Janet Mills gave the green light for more businesses to open in all counties on June 1, 2020, as part of the second stage of the governor’s Restarting Maine’s Economy plan.
On May 18, 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced details of the Baker-Polito administration’s four-phase approach to reopening Massachusetts and released guidelines and requirements for businesses resuming operations. The process will be data-driven and fluid with the expectation that there will be at least three weeks before the start of each phase.
On May 19, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the agency’s recordkeeping regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1904, providing additional information on what employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs. Previous guidance, which OSHA issued on April 10, 2020, eliminated most employers’ (all industries except healthcare, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions) obligation to analyze whether a COVID-19 case is work-related if certain conditions are met.
On April 30, 2020, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) issued guidance identifying the circumstances in which an employee may remain eligible for the receipt of unemployment benefits despite the employee’s refusal of an offer to return to work. These circumstances included, for example, an individual being considered high risk due to his or her age (65 or older) or being diagnosed with COVID-19 and not having recovered.
On May 12, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Office Workspaces, which provides detailed guidance for operating in office workspaces to “support a safe, clean environment for employees” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some parts of the country are now in the third month of a lockdown. As a result of the lockdown, a large portion of U.S. businesses quickly transitioned their workforces to telework in the opening weeks of the pandemic. This abrupt shift to work-from-home disrupted many employers’ well-established protocols and practices for protecting confidential information and trade secrets, exposing this sensitive information to a heightened risk of theft.
Relief from the strict employee benefit cafeteria plan mid-year election changes rules has finally arrived. In Notice 2020-29, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued guidance providing cafeteria plan participants with additional flexibility to make mid-year election changes as needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 14, 2020, the Washington State Department of Health, in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, created new emergency COVID-19-related safety rules that farms must implement if they provide temporary farmworker housing.