Updated (05/25/20) – At this moment, COVID-19 has sickened millions in the U.S. As the U.S. death toll approaches 100,000, healthcare employees are, understandably, confused and scared; the global pandemic threatens not only public health, but also economic well-being.
Labor unions like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and National Nurses United (NNU) are working overtime to exploit COVID-19-related confusion and fear. Unions are not only criticizing healthcare leaders, they are demanding “more” when it comes to compensation, paid time off, and workplace safety. The SEIU, for example, offers a “toolkit” which includes links for employees to download and customize their own list of COVID-19-related workplace demands.
And, as the crisis evolves for healthcare leaders and staff, four topics take center stage: 1) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); 2) Expanded Paid Time Off (PTO); 3) “Hazard Pay”; and, 4) Refusal to Work Policies.
Personal Protective Equipment: Since mid-March many hospitals have gone beyond CDC guidelines and provided all patient-facing employees with PPE. Still, confusion abounds. The scarcity of PPE is universal, prompting even the Joint Commission to issue a statement in support of healthcare workers bringing their own PPE from home.
- Joint Commission Statement on Use of Facemasks Brought from Home
- In Fight for Masks, Janitors Sometimes Come Last
Expanded Paid Time Off: Beyond protection for their own health and the health of their families, healthcare employees want to know their employer stands behind them if they get sick or are otherwise impacted by the pandemic (i.e., quarantined, low censused, furloughed, or laid off). On March 31,the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) announced dramatic safety and pay-protection measures for HCA employees.
- HCA announcement on expanded PTO and PPE
- Thousands of Healthcare Workers Furloughed
- Unexpected Healthcare Layoffs
Increased Compensation or “Hazard Pay”: The idea of “hazard pay” originated with non-healthcare employers like Amazon, Albertsons, Kroger, Safeway, and Whole Foods who decided to pay employees an additional $2.00 (or more) per hour as a bonus for working during the crisis. Unions are now demanding increased pay and/or pay protection for healthcare workers (represented and non-represented).
- University of Illinois Medical Center grants nurses hazard pay
- St. Louis Based Ascension Announces Pay Protection for COVID-19-Impacted Employees
- 22 Companies Who’ve Made Changes during COVID-19
Refusal to Work: While many healthcare employers now offer expanded PTO for employees impacted by COVID-19, in most cases, employees must first exhaust opportunities to be redeployed. Hospitals are now dealing with employees who refuse redeployment as well as a surge of complaints filed with local OSHA offices.
- Michigan’s Largest Health System: Help With COVID-19 Patients or Lose Job
- NNU Files OSHA Complaints Against 125 Hospitals
As always, we hope you find this information useful – please stay safe!