How to Support Service Industry Workers During COVID-19

  • Published Nov 20, 2020

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the restaurant industry has experienced more significant sales and job losses than nearly any other. It’s a devastating blow to the many workers who often survive paycheck to paycheck and who are now feeling scared and overwhelmed by the global uncertainty we all face. Now, more than ever, your service industry workers need support — here’s how you can help them.

Be Aware of Current Legislation, and Make Sure Your Employees Are Too

Because of the devastating losses that it has already suffered, the restaurant industry is now relying on the federal government to ensure its survival. The government has rolled out a few measures to help small businesses and their employees, and it is considering rolling out additional help over the coming weeks.

For example, Congress recently passed an economic relief plan called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The act provides funding for free coronavirus testing and increased funding for food stamps, and it requires certain employers to offer paid sick leave for workers affected by the pandemic. Eligible employees will be able to take leave for up to 12 work weeks in any 12 month period for the birth or adoption of a child, to take care of an immediate family with a serious health condition, or to take medical leave for the employee’s own health condition. Employees who take this leave have the right to return to their position and receive the same pay and benefits.

Tell Sick Employees to Stay Home, and Don’t Require a Doctor’s Note

Considering the fact that restaurants have already lost such a drastic percentage of their normal sales, hourly employees are feeling those effects magnified. Many of them are having to make the difficult decision of whether or not to come into work — and risk exposure to the virus — or stay home without pay and struggle to make ends meet.

While your restaurant may be dealing with financial difficulties right now, your employees are the heart of your business. Make sure that any employees who don’t feel well are staying home, or are sent home at the first sign of sickness, and make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

Take Advantage of Relief Programs and Potential Funding

Thankfully, there are plenty of organizations around the country that are doing their part to offset the restaurant industry devastation with some relief for industry workers, including:

  • The Lee Initiative. Started by Chef Edward Lee, this relief program provides food, funds, and supplies to out-of-work restaurant workers across the country in collaboration with Alon Shayla, Maker’s Mark, and more.
  • National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. In collaboration with famed chef and TV host Guy Fieri, Restaurant Relief America allows restaurant workers to apply for a one-time $500 check to use toward daily expenses (groceries, medical bills, etc.).
  • OFW Emergency Fund. Created by the nonprofit One Fair Wage, this fund provides immediate assistance to restaurant employees, delivery drivers, and others in the industry who work for tips.

Communicate Procedures and Updates to Your Employees

To boost your employees’ morale and create a sense of trust and togetherness among your staff, keep them updated with regular check-ins and communication. This can be as simple as a brief daily email or a weekly teleconference call, or even a two-minute update before each shift begins. This is where you can share the latest CDC updates and industry regulations to ensure that the business is running as smoothly and as safely as possible. It’s also a great way to reinforce the importance of reaching out for funding and mental health help when it’s needed.

Promote Mental Health

The stress of this pandemic has wreaked havoc on all of our daily lives — and for those who face uncertainty with their jobs and income, the distress can be overwhelming. By promoting the mental health and well-being of all your employees, you’re showing the team that you’re putting their needs first.

Allow healthy employees to cover shifts for each other without question if a mental health day is needed. Ensure that employees are getting enough breaks while on the clock, as well as receiving at least one day off each week. Create weekly or biweekly teleconference meetings to keep staff up to date and encourage some much-needed — but safe — social interaction. You might also consider sharing this list of mental health recommendations from the CDC.

Protect Your Business with Workers’ Comp for Restaurants

As COVID-19 continues to spread, many business owners and employers are concerned about what will happen should one of their staff contract the virus. It’s important to note that for workers’ compensation in the restaurant industry, each claim is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and is subject to specific state workers’ compensation laws. However, there are guidelines to help you determine whether or not a coronavirus illness may be covered under a workers’ comp insurance policy.

At Cerity, we make it quick and easy to get the workers’ comp insurance you need. Get started by using our free workers’ comp quote tool to get a free online quote.

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The information provided is intended to provide a general overview. This information is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. Cerity® makes no warranties for the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of the information provided, and will not be responsible for any actions taken based on the information contained herein. If you have legal questions or need legal advice, please consult an attorney.