Remote work finds wide support as businesses try to reopen, poll finds

By Eric Strauss
New Providence | Jul 2, 2020 at 12:53 pm

More than 90% of employers are offering COVID-19 work-from-home accommodations as businesses begin to reopen, according to a new poll by XpertHR.

XpertHR, which has its New Jersey office in New Providence, said 92% of employers said they would offer remote work options to meet employee requests.

More than 75% of those requests are coming from at-risk employees, the poll found.

“Employers must take action if an employee’s health will be jeopardized upon returning to the workplace,” Robert Teachout, legal editor for XpertHR, said in a prepared statement. “The employer should eliminate or reduce the risk so that the employee may safely return to work and perform their essential job functions.”

Teachout noted that employers must provide workers with a place of employment free from recognized hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm, and COVID-19 has been recognized as a workplace hazard.

Other COVID-related accommodations include providing personal protective equipment, adding barriers and space between workers and more, XpertHR said.

“In addition to employees with underlying health conditions, employers may receive accommodation requests from people with respiratory illnesses who are unable to wear a mask and those who are simply afraid of contracting COVID-19,” Teachout said.

The poll also found that 59% of employers have been asked for some kind of accommodation by employees.

When it comes to the reasons workers ask for accommodations, in addition to those at-risk, 61% of workers have a fear of returning to the worksite, 58% are dealing with child care issues and 33% have a disability, the poll found.

And, in terms of response, in addition to the remote work option, 64% of employers are allowing some kind of modified work schedule, 60% are providing PPE and 58% are changing the work environment.

“Although employers are taking steps to accommodate disabled and at-risk employees, if an employee is not entitled to an accommodation or leave under federal, state or local law or guidance, an employer may legally require the employee to return to the workplace,” Teachout said.

XpertHR polled 276 human resources professionals.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus:

Eric Strauss | estrauss@roi-nj.com | @acerimrat