As governors across the country ease lockdown restrictions, America’s quarantined populations begin to return to work. With the federal government leaving state governors to establish a reopening policy, many lawmakers turn to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).
An alliance of workers’ rights foundations from across the U.S., National COSH is a staunch defender of America’s workforce. The organization has recently released a set of five guidelines for states to follow as lawmakers draft guidelines for businesses on reopening.
Five ‘safe and just’ return to work recommendations
According to National COSH, a safe and just return to work must meet a minimum of five benchmarks:
- Rigorous health and safety protections: National COSH recommends that states design protections based on scientific study and input from workers, employers and union groups. The group recommends that employers, employees and the state all participate in enforcement with strong whistleblower protections.
- Comprehensive screening and tracing: Tracing and testing must be central to returning to work. National COSH recommends funding community-based tracing programs to help reduce further spread of the disease. These tests must prioritize anti-discrimination and confidentiality.
- Job protections for workers: The guidelines recommend guaranteed paid leave during public health crises, including quarantine pay for exposed workers and job retention guarantees. The group also mandates workers’ compensation coverage for those infected at work and health care benefits for all, including mental health services.
- Worker and union inclusion: National COSH recommends that states include workers and union representatives as members on all task forces, commissions or other groups designing guidelines for reopening.
- Measures to end economic disparity: Lastly, the organization recommends states develop equitable and inclusive paths to end economic inequality in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. A guaranteed living wage, emergency childcare and financial assistance to small businesses play a key role. The group also recommends the state increase protections for overlooked workers, like independent contractors and agricultural workers.
Employers may have questions about the law
Employers with questions about increasing worker protections or return-to-work regulations for Maryland can find answers with a local lawyer familiar with employment law.