In response to advances in the fight against COVID-19, including an increase in the number of Americans being vaccinated and employers beginning to consider having remote workers return to the workplace, EARN developed the policy brief Disability-Inclusive COVID-19 Workplace Health and Safety Plans. The brief explores health and safety considerations for all workers, including those with disabilities, during COVID-19 recovery. It also highlights components of disability-inclusive COVID-19 health and safety plans for reopening workplaces. A “disability-inclusive” plan aligns with disability and civil rights laws and regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and is consistent with policies and protocols adopted by federal and state public health and occupational safety and health officials.
Note: This publication reflects knowledge and best practices as of May 2021.
- Getting Ahead of the Curve: Ensuring Safe, Healthy and Inclusive Workplaces During the COVID-19 Recovery (April 30, 2021): Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) discuss ways employers can ensure safe and healthy workplaces for all workers, including those with disabilities, during the COVID-19 recovery.
Federal Health and Safety Plans
- Department of Justice (ADA and reasonable accommodation, reference to EEOC guidance, vulnerable populations)
- Department of Labor (Confidentiality, ADA and reasonable accommodation, effective communication)
- United States Department of Agriculture (Confidentiality, reasonable accommodation, EEOC guidance)
- Social Security Administration (Confidentiality, reasonable accommodation, EEOC guidance, face mask policy)
- United States Department of the Treasury (ADA and reasonable accommodation, EEOC guidance, face mask policy)
Inclusion in Action: Health and Safety Planning at EY
Lori B. Golden, Abilities Strategy Leader at EY, says:
“Shortly after closing offices in March 2020, EY formed a Return to Work Task Force and began thinking through how to enable our people to stay energized, connected and productive while working at home and bring them back safely when we reopen. From the start, the team worked to address the specific concerns of EY professionals with disabilities and those living with people who have disabilities. Since everyone was now working virtually, having accessible digital tools and content became more critical than ever, as there would be no in-office opportunities to interact or share information. Everyone would need to run virtual meetings in ways that made it comfortable for colleagues of all abilities or some would be left out, left behind and unable to contribute.
EY began educating our workforce on inclusive meeting protocols and how to create accessible messages and materials. Since some people with disabilities had customized workstation set ups, assistive technologies or ergonomic equipment at the office they might now need for home use, they would need guidance on what to buy, how to set it up and how to get it delivered. EY’s Workwell@Home ergonomics guide was refreshed, and a new policy was introduced reimbursing up to $1,000 for anyone to purchase home office ergonomic equipment.
Since medical documentation was not needed, this streamlined and speeded the process and lightened the workload for the accommodations, ergonomics and HR support teams. Now that everyone had to be able to find information via self-service, it became essential to make content highly visible, well organized and easy to understand. With that goal, EY created an accessible Working with Disabilities @ EY toolkit explaining all U.S. disabilities-related policies, processes, programs and resources, posted it prominently, pointed to it from a half dozen relevant intranet pages and microsites and promoted it in variety of ways.
The company understood that some people living with compromised immune systems might be especially concerned their own or household members’ safety once offices opened up. In her first company-wide Webcast weeks after offices closed, U.S. Chairman and CEO Kelly Grier announced that no EY person would be forced back into the office until they chose to. She outlined conditions that would have to be met before anyone was allowed to return, travel or visit a client for any reason.
Those criteria were published, updated regularly and presented by the Chairman and her direct reports on monthly all-company calls. Social distancing, hygiene, enhanced cleaning and HVAC systems and daily processes to certify good health were mapped out as part of eventual return to work plans. The entire workforce was sent care packages with hand sanitizer, two cloth masks and a reusable thermometer for immediate use at home, and eventually, for the office. Understanding that cloth masks could create challenges for people who lip read, EY purchased a large supply of cloth masks with clear inserts around the nose and mouth and set up a system to make them available to anyone who wanted them for themselves or colleagues. Disability wasn’t mentioned in the communications and no documentation was required.”