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  • COVID-19: A New Work World?

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we live and interact with one another. Wearing masks (and sometimes gloves) when we’re in public, talking to the checker at the grocery store behind a plexiglass shield, and maintaining a social distance. As people slowly return to work, we want to shed light on three key areas in the workplace.

 

Health Care

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law March 27 contains important updates on the use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs).

Telehealth services and HSAs: High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) with a Health Savings Account (HSA) may provide pre-deductible coverage for telehealth and other remote care services without jeopardizing a member’s ability to contribute to an HSA. This provision will expire on December 31, 2021. This new Act helps settle a debate in the employee benefits world on whether the government would allow an HSA-compatible plan to offer a telehealth visit without copayment.

 

Qualified medical expenses

The CARES Act allows employees to use a Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Heath Reimbursement Arraignment (HRA) to purchase certain over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medications such as aspirin and other pain medications, allergy medication, etc., without a doctor’s prescription.

Menstrual care products are now considered qualified medical expenses for payment or reimbursement with an HSA, FSA or HRA.

Both provisions for OTC and menstrual products apply to amounts paid or expenses incurred on or after January 1, 2020, and will be ongoing without an expiration date.

 

Workplace

As businesses begin to reopen, they will have to update their facilities and/or their remote work policies to help create a safe environment and ease the minds of their workforce and customers. Here are some of the ways we are seeing, hearing and suggesting employers create safe spaces in a post COVID-19 world.

Sanitizing stations. Employers in all industries have started and will continue to have designated places in their office or workspace where employees may sanitize their hands with hand sanitizer, or retrieve wipes to use in work areas to sanitize desks, chairs, computers or other items. In rare cases, we’ve also seen employers invest in no-touch hand washing machines that an employee puts his or her hands in and the machine dispenses soap and water automatically.

Remote work. Before COVID-19, some employers had remote workers, but not everyone had that luxury—mainly due to a lack of comfort many employers have with the concept of not being able to monitor someone to see if they’re truly putting in a full day. During COVID-19, if employers could offer it, everyone became a remote worker. (Arrow Benefits is a local example). Going forward in a post COVID-19 environment, we believe employers will continue this practice as they have become comfortable with it and see that many job functions do not need to be done in the office.

Schedule change. Linked to remote work, some employers will be staggering work schedules to have some employees start earlier and leave earlier than others to limit the number of employees in one location at the same time and also include office perks such as Flexible Fridays. Some have discussed moving to an A-Day, B-Day block system, which will have certain employees in the office two days a week (A-Days) and the other employees in the office three days a week (B-Days), alternating each week which group comes in three days per week.

One direction walkway. We have started seeing this in supermarkets and will likely be seeing this in other workspaces, if the space is available. The one direction walkway will ultimately limit the close exposure employees have when walking past each other.

Personal Protective Equipment. Like an office supply closet, many employers will now also have a place where employees can access personal protective equipment. Face masks, face shields, hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial jackets are examples of what some employers will keep on hand to ensure that their workplace remains clean, and their employees and customers are protected.

 

Communication

And finally, the need to touch base quickly with employees is critical. With pandemics, fires and other disasters that can impact a company and its employees overnight, communicating with employees at the push of a button has never been more important. However, few employers have the ability to do this in an organized way. Arrow Benefits recently rolled out a program called ArrowConnected, which will have several communication platforms featured for employees, including the ability for employers to send critical information via text message to some or all employees. With the average American now reading their texts within five seconds of receiving them, employees will have the information employers need them to see when they need to see it. ArrowConnected offers a solution for companies that don’t already have a system in place to quickly and efficiently communicate with its employees.

 

Andrew McNeil and Rosario Avila are senior benefits advisors, who collaborate with their clients as a team, using their different perspectives to deploy one solution. They have been nationally recognized in Employee Benefit Adviser magazine. For more information, visit arrowbenefits.com, or call (707) 992-3789.

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