COVID-19’s Impact on Employment Agencies
The pandemic has affected nearly every part of society, but employment is one of the largest casualties as people separate from one another to avoid spreading COVID-19. What is the impact on employment agencies, which play a major role in the country’s workforce?
Agencies Follow Industry Trends
The way that staffing agencies operate during the pandemic relies heavily on the industries they work with. While some industries are in a steep decline, others are thriving. Some of the hardest-hit publicly include leisure and hospitality (travel, restaurants, and entertainment), retail stores and their wholesale suppliers, education and health, and government workers.1 Generally, these are industries that have a smaller impact on employment agencies. However, COVID-19 and social distancing also affect businesses that are less publicized such as construction and manufacturing.
In addition to demand, the current job market comes down to whether a business is considered essential or non-essential, and whether employees of the business can operate at a safe distance from each other. Industries that make the stay-at-home orders easier to follow are booming, such as delivery services, eCommerce warehouses, and manufacturers of essential goods. Fortunately, companies are beginning to need more workers again as regulations are starting to loosen in some parts of the country – but not at the expense of health and safety for employees and customers alike.
Employers and staffing agencies have been provided newly created rules by the Department of Labor and Center for Disease Control to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among workers and provide a safe and healthy environment. Many have also adopted their own industry-specific practices as an extra prevention measure. These new rules and practices include:
- Conducting remote interviews using online video tools such as Zoom, Skype, or MS Teams
- Interviewing candidates about their possible exposure to COVID-19
- Following extended cleaning protocols
- Providing proper PPE for workers, such as masks and hand sanitizer
- Developing a preparedness and response plan for outbreaks
- Continuing to follow existing OSHA standards
Health organizations also suggest that businesses conduct thorough evaluations to identify COVID-related hazards. This entails workplace inspections and investigating at the first sign of illness.
At The Job Post, each employer has shared its safety plan with us, which includes extra PPE, daily health questionnaires, 6 feet apart employee requirements, and temperature scanning, to name a few. We make sure our employees know the safety precautions necessary for their workplace and help them with PPE if needed. Like other agencies, safety is the number one priority right now.
In short, employers and staffing agencies are encouraged to take as many precautions as they can to protect their employees and their business. The key to staying open and keeping workers employed lies in preventing the spread of illness, even now that the curve has begun to flatten in many areas.
Addressing Employee Concerns
Though new protocols are in place, some workers are hesitant to return to work. Nearly half of meatpacking plant employees across the US did not return to work last week despite orders to re-open plants.2 Workers say that they are afraid of getting sick at work because of the recent outbreak at several meatpacking facilities around the US. While these facilities pose a unique risk because of close quarters and cooler temperatures that allow the virus to live on surfaces, their fears are not unique to the meatpacking industry.
Sick employees are actively encouraged to stay at home, but many are afraid of losing their jobs if they are gone for too long. Hourly employees are especially at risk of coming into work despite not feeling well because they can’t afford to stay home. New regulations mean that employers must insist that employees that aren’t feeling well or have been exposed to the virus stay home to prevent spreading it to others.
What happens when a staffing agency employee gets sick and can’t work? In any situation, it is a good idea to find out what the options are by speaking with a staffing agency representative. Workers will not face repercussions if they get sick, and will be able to return when they have been cleared by their doctor. This arrangement is beneficial for everyone, as it allows employees to get healthy and protects other workers from exposure.
Communication Is Key
Since staffing agency arrangements include an extra party – not just business and employee – there is an extra layer of complexity. Communication is the key to keeping everyone on the same page. The CDC urges employment agencies and clients to discuss contingency leave policies for sick workers and their responsibilities in protecting workers.3 Just as importantly, staffing agencies should notify their employees what is being done to protect them, what their risk is, and what is expected of them to prevent the spread of infection when they enter the workplace.
Communication and keeping everyone informed is the best way to avoid misunderstandings about policy and to ensure that everyone is protected medically and legally. A lot of patience is needed from agencies, businesses, and employees to provide the best steps forward.
A Rapidly Changing Jobscape
The future is uncertain for the job market in general. As of this post, the US unemployment rate is 13.3% after hitting 14.7% in April 2020. At the same time, the number of jobs posted in Michigan has decreased by 31.6% from the end of January to June 1st, according to tracktherecovery.org.4
Looking toward the future, The Federal Reserve projects that the unemployment rate at the end of 2020 will be 9.3%5, but a lot depends on a projected second wave of Coronavirus infections.
What is certain is that workplace precautions are not going to end anytime soon. Products must still be manufactured and repairs will still need to be made. The country will continue to function at some kind of capacity, which means that social-distancing and cleaning protocols are going to be the new normal. These changes will keep employees healthier and safer down the road. Learning from this time in history will result in health standards that are beneficial for everyone. However, the pandemic won’t last forever and it’s likely that employment agencies will play a big part in getting people back to work at a new normal rate.
- Richter, Felix. “The Industries Worst Affected by the Covid-19 Job Crisis.” Statista, 11 May 2020, www.statista.com/chart/21669/unemployed-persons-in-the-us-by-industry. Accessed 9 June 2020.
- Global Ag Media. “US meatpacking workers hesitant to return to work despite executive order.” The Poultry Site, 16 June 2020, thepoultrysite.com/news/2020/06/us-meatpacking-workers-hesitant-to-return-to-work-despite-executive-order. Accessed 16 June 2020
- “Safe Practices & Workplaces.” American Staffing Association, americanstaffing.net/coronavirus/safe-practices-workplaces. Accessed 9 June 2020.
- Economic Tracker. Opportunity Insights, 2020, tracktherecovery.org. Accessed 9 June 2020.
- Smialek, Jenna. “Fed Leaves Rates Unchanged and Projects Years of High Unemployment.” The New York Times, 10 June 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/business/economy/federal-reserve-economy-coronavirus.html. Accessed 11 June 2020.