Podcast Episode 12

Episode details

Jeff Nowak is one of the leading employment attorneys in the United States and the author of the highly regarded FMLA Insights blog. He joins Unum’s Ellen McCann to walk employers through key considerations for maximizing health and safety when building a return-to-work strategy. We discuss everything from creating a health assessment, to flexibility, masks, and the importance of building a robust communication plan.

  • Health assessments are a non-invasive way of having a conversation with your employees about their ability to return to work. You can ask about symptoms, positive tests, their proximity to or whether they are caring for someone with symptoms or a diagnosis. You can also ask about recent travel. [01:42]
  • You have many important decisions to make: Are you going to do assessments before employees come back to work, or before they set foot on the property? How will you administer tests? How can you do this in a way that most protects your employees’ privacy? [04:00]
  • You should expect some apprehension from your employees. Remember, this event is the first of its kind in a lifetime. Accept that fact — and engage in discussions with your employees. Let employees know what you’ve done to ensure a safe environment and share this in your communication plan. [06:12]
  • Even though people are going back to work, social distancing is still required. Very few workplaces are going back at 100% capacity. This means employers may be able to be more flexible in offering remote work options than in past. [09:16]
  • From a practical and legal standpoint, it’s important to follow state or local requirements when it comes to face coverings or masks. For employees who can’t wear masks, engage in a discussion of what you could do to help them perform their job. [11:21]
  • Prepare a robust return-to-work communication plan. Focus on the physical spacing of the workplace and what’s required of the employee in terms of masks, hand washing, social distancing, and so on. [13:52]
  • Check out Jeff Nowak’s blog, FMLA Insights, for more great guidance.

Have an idea for our next podcast?

Email us your suggestion or leave us a message 207-200-6685.
COVID-19 resource center

Stay up to date and informed with the latest company information and helpful links on our COVID-19 resource center.

Jeff Nowak headshot

Jeff Nowak

Shareholder, Littler Mendelson

Jeff Nowak is a shareholder for Littler Mendelson, P.C., the world’s largest employment practice representing employers. He is a recognized leader on FMLA and ADA issues, helping employers develop comprehensive strategies to achieve compliance with employee leave and accommodation issues. He is also the author of the highly regarded FMLA Insights blog, which has earned him entry into the ABA Journal’s Blogger Hall of Fame. Nowak is a highly sought-after speaker on FMLA/ADA issues, most notably serving on the faculty of the National Employment Law Institute (NELI) and a frequent speaker for the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC).

Ellen McCann headshot

Ellen McCann

Assistant Vice President, Leave Solutions — Unum Group

Ellen McCann serves as a leading expert in applying benefits and benefits technology to power modern solutions to more effective employee leave programs, stronger regulatory compliance and enhanced digital HR transformation. In this role, she combines more than 30 years of employment law experience with practical knowledge of the complexities of leave and accommodation management to help develop and create solutions that enable employers to address the challenges of leave and accommodations. She is an acclaimed national speaker on leave management issues including FMLA and ADA, and is a certified trainer for SHRM and CE credit.

About the host

Clare Morin headshot

Clare Morin

Unum Content Marketing Manager

Clare Morin is the Content Marketing Manager at Unum and a journalist who’s spent the last 20 years interviewing hundreds of thought leaders on topics ranging from wellness to culture, finance, human resources and technology. Born in the UK, raised in Hong Kong and based in the U.S. since 2009, she brings a global outlook to the HR Trends studio.

You may be interested in

Podcast Episode 11
Podcast Episode 10 Image


Episode 10: The ADA, COVID-19 and return-to-work planning

April 28, 2020

As many U.S. organizations plan for the return of employees to worksites, legal experts Ellen McCann and Tamika Newson weigh in on various legal considerations.