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Organizations Mitigating Impact to the Workforce Because of COVID-19


Despite the various blows COVID-19 has dealt, some organizations are making necessary adjustments to support their employees while also maintaining business continuity.

The WorldatWork “COVID-19 Employer Response Survey” found that more than a third (37%) of the 1,510 employers surveyed are providing full pay for employees who are unable to work due to illness or caregiving needs.

“This seems to support the efforts we see from many organizations to mitigate impact to the workforce expecting that this will not be an overly prolonged crisis,” said Alicia Scott-Wears, content director at WorldatWork. “Total rewards professionals are facing unique challenges with balancing the interests of the organization and its workforce and it appears that only in cases where they must, are they taking actions toward pay reductions, furloughs, and layoffs.”

When it comes to benefits, most organizations (93%) are communicating existing benefit info, however, 36% are making plan changes and increasing access and 26% are creating/providing additional resources to at-risk populations. Among those employers that are making plan changes, most (60%) are waiving co-payments or deductibles. Additionally, 30% are implementing telemedicine and 30% are changing how prescriptions can be accessed.

Most organizations (65%) that responded do not have plans for additional hazard/battle pay for employees who are required to work on-site during the pandemic. However, when isolated to retail organizations, 46% have some form of hazard pay planned, as do 29% of health-care and pharmaceutical organizations.

"The pandemic hasn’t just disrupted work, it is a body blow to the health of people, organizations, and nations. Perhaps a bit of silver lining is the quick responses by employers to adapt and change direction and to effectively communicate these changes." – Scott Cawood, president and CEO of WorldatWork

Despite the overall economic uncertainty posed by the coronavirus, more than half of the 1,510 organizations surveyed (56%) have either already paid out salary increases for 2020 or are still planning to do so. However, 21% of employers are holding off. The survey revealed that private sector companies are more likely to have already paid out salary increases than government and nonprofit organizations.

While many organizations surveyed revealed they’ve already begun hiring freezes, furloughs and layoffs, most are optimistic those measures will end and they will be able to return to normal in less than three months.

When asked to target a timetable for when “normal operations” will resume at their organization, 39% said May, 24% June, 9% July and 32% targeted as late as August.

“Absolutely every finding in this survey has a volume of stories behind it,” said Scott Cawood, president and CEO of WorldatWork. “One of the biggest [story] being the incredible hardship facing a large swath of the workforce. The pandemic hasn’t just disrupted work, it is a body blow to the health of people, organizations, and nations. Perhaps a bit of silver lining is the quick responses by employers to adapt and change direction and to effectively communicate these changes. Many of which will likely ‘stick’ long after this crisis subsides. And while most organizations anticipate being back to normal by summer, it’s clear that the future of work looks very different than it did in 2019.”

Other key findings from the survey:

  • Over half of the organizations surveyed are making changes to staff/operational hours by implementing:
    • Hiring freeze, except for critical roles (72%).
    • Furloughs (39%).
    • Layoff (25%).
  • Most organizations (69%) are not implementing additional relief programs beyond mandated leaves and pay policies.
  • 60% of employers are not offering additional support to employees in caregiving roles.
  • There has been a 415% increase in the percent of employees working remotely part or full-time.
  • Most organizations (67%) are sending frequent (either daily or every few days) COVID-19-related communications to associates.

About the Author

Brett Christie Bio Image

Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.

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