12 Nov Cannabis Business Practices to Protect Your Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves and federal and state laws change to reduce the spread of the virus, you have much to consider for your business. And, keeping your employees’ safety top of mind is most likely the priority. We know you continue to make difficult decisions and enforce new policies to comply with regulations and further protect your employees from risk, and because the pandemic has been lingering for months, you might have already created a COVID-19 risk management plan, but safety should be an ongoing effort. Use the following practices to improve employee safety at your cannabis business and protect your employees from the impacts of COVID-19.
How to Keep Your Employees Safe During the Pandemic
Maintain communication and transparency with employees
In times like these, you want to ensure you keep employees current on news, regulations, and changes in business policies. As an owner or manager, you may take the initiative of communicating new or modified policies and how they will impact employees. Your HR administrator, compliance manager, or a key team member can be assigned to monitor updates from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), federal agencies, and other global health organizations.
Clean and sanitize work areas regularly
Due to COVID-19, businesses must now elevate their cleaning and sanitation routines. Using CDC guidelines, all cannabis businesses should practice the following:
- Wipe down high touchpoints every 30min, including technology equipment, cultivation tools, phones, counters and workstations, display cases, and ID check booths.
- Instruct employees to wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, and going to the bathroom.
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times, including face masks and gloves. For retail businesses, encourage employees to wear gloves when handling cash payments or to sanitize after handling cash.
- Provide sanitizing stations at the entrance and throughout the business.
Find ways to maintain social distance
The cannabis industry makes remote work nearly impossible as employees must be on-site to work with live plants and the retail sale of products, but employers in this space should still be thinking about ways to maintain social distancing, while still getting the job done. Consider stagging shifts in the evenings and on the weekends; keep employees in zones; close off common spaces like the breakroom or only allow for one employee in the space at a time; and shut off shared appliances like the water cooler and coffee station.
For retail businesses, offer pre-ordering, curbside pickup, and contact-less delivery, if possible. Where these aren’t possible options, limit the number of customers in the store at a time and consider installing thick plastic or plexiglass separation barriers at each cashier station.
Follow CDC Guidelines for handling sick employees
You will want to refer to the CDC for handling sick employees, especially those that have been exposed to or have contracted COVID-19. As preliminary measures, advise sick employees to stay home and if employees become sick at work, send them home right away. Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting the sick employee’s workstation or office to minimize the potential for other employees to be exposed. If and when an employee wants to return to work, please advise them of the proper CDC protocol to practice prior to coming back.
Automate payroll to avoid processing delays and minimize human contact
Work with an HR provider like OROleafhr that has the banking relationships and the technology resources to automate payroll processing for your business. Offering direct deposit payments instead of checks avoids potential mail service delays and employee constraints should the employee be unable to pick up their paycheck in a timely manner. Direct deposit payments also help eliminate the need for human contact that comes with issuing and getting signatures for employee checks.
Leverage available tax credits to assist with payroll
Both the CARES Act and Families First Coronavirus Response Act include provisions that may be available to reduce employer payroll tax liability for cannabis companies through certain deferrals and credits.
- Sections 7001 and 7003 of the Families First Act provide businesses with tax credits to cover certain costs of providing employees with expanded family, medical leave, and required paid sick leave related to COVID-19. These provisions are effective through December 31, 2020.
- Section 2301 of the CARES Act encourages Eligible Employers to keep employees on their payroll despite experiencing economic hardship related to COVID-19.
Please note: Cannabis companies are ineligible to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the CARES Act. However, the tax benefits outlined above do not indicate if cannabis businesses are excluded. It is also unclear if these tax credits are applicable to cannabis employers that are subject to section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code. Employers interested in these tax credits should consult their CPA or tax counsel for further guidance.
Support employees who are laid off or furloughed
In the event of terminating or furloughing employees, check with your health insurance provider on how to continue providing benefits. Typically, active employee coverage is terminated after a certain period of time following employee termination and a COBRA notice is sent to employees to continue coverage at a higher premium. However, during the pandemic, insurance providers and employers have started offering different options, especially if the employee lost their employment due to the business shutting its doors temporarily. For example, the insurance may extend coverage beyond the initial expiration period. Or, employers may also be able to cover the employees’ premiums until the business reopens its doors.
Ensure Your Business is Doing Enough to Protect Its Employees
Your employees are your business’ best asset. Without them, you would not have the support to keep your cannabis business going, especially during COVID-19. It’s important to work with a reputable HR provider to ensure you’re doing everything possible to keep them (and your business) safe from the impacts of the pandemic.
OROleafhr understands the ongoing employee labor challenges cannabis businesses like yours are facing. We know your employees are the backbone of your operation, and that’s why we connect you with the banking and payroll relationships needed for your organization to support its employees. We are not your ordinary HR provider; we are your partner in cannabis HR. Whether your business needs additional help to maintain compliance or needs to offload employee benefits administration and compensation, we can help. Contact OROleafhr to discuss your HR needs today.