Benchmarking Call: Return to Work (RTW) Planning Globally and in Mexico

With the current pandemic, Mexico has banned public gatherings and closed non-essential businesses until at least the end of May.

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With the current pandemic, Mexico has banned public gatherings and closed non-essential businesses until at least the end of May. A number of states (Michoacán, Jalisco and Sonora) have implemented stay-at-home orders. This means while companies may be reopening in other countries, the supply chain is disrupted as key production of certain materials essential to the business remain closed.

Global Strategy

Companies are trying to implement a global COVID-19 response strategy to ensure all locations are compliant with worker health and safety guidelines. With the exception of companies deemed as essential services, who have remained operational on site with essential workers, for most other companies, return to workplace guidance is still in development. In Mexico, companies are waiting for more guidance to ensure they stay compliant. It is still early days in the process. One company relies on their Mexican public policy team to get information needed for return to work strategy. Some companies are looking to their Asian locations to see what learnings can be applied from reopening operations there, to mitigate a second wave of infections.

For those with a unionized workforce, companies are working with their unions every step of the way. One company’s union hired an independent health expert who is part of the company’s response team in Mexico. If external experts have recommendations, the company reviews them and works to come to a common decision. The company has been transparent about efforts by providing access to global data on social distancing impact on number of cases. The company mentioned that the union has to give consent for the company to reopen.

To address supply chain disruptions, companies are also integrating suppliers in their response efforts. One company is sharing templates and providing access to its negotiated bulk pricing for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other relevant response supplies in its purchasing catalogue.

Phased Approach and Workforce Prioritization

Companies plan to do a gradual phased approach to returning to the workplace. They are reviewing which employees need to be on-site in order to perform their job responsibilities.  The employee groups that are higher priority to bring back onsite are the ones who are unable to work remotely.  Employers are also assessing the health needs of employees.  For example, special attention is paid to vulnerable employees, such as those who either themselves, or a family member, are at a higher risk for complications should they test positive for the coronavirus. For employees who do return to the workplace, companies mentioned flexible work schedules and staggered shifts to promote social distancing.

Facilities

Companies are reviewing their facilities to ensure that when employees do return to the workplace that they are able to maintain social distancing. One company is redesigning their office space to make necessary changes. Companies are also reviewing how to implement social distancing daycare to allow parents to return to work. One company is indicated their decision not to provide a company solution for daycare needs was due concern for legal implications.

Mass Transit Considerations

Commuting to work was identified as a challenge to be addressed especially as many employees rely on public transportation to get to work. One employer discussed that some employees take an hour long bus ride to get to their facilities. To help mitigate this risk, they distributed masks and hand sanitizer for employees to use on the bus. Hand sanitizer is sourced in country.

Screening

Screening for employees, vendors, contractors and guests, include a few components.  For temperature screening, companies mentioned the use of both thermal scanners and thermometers.  Several companies discussed using non-touch thermometers at their facilities. One company indicated that they will have walkthrough thermal scanners at entrances, however they are having challenges getting enough to cover all entrances. To address this gap, the company shipped handheld non-touch thermometers. Personal use thermometers are not readily available in Mexico, so at home temperature check is not feasible.

Another component of screening includes symptom checker questionnaires.  With the questionnaire, the modalities mentioned include web, app and paper. The questionnaire lists symptoms as well as situation considerations: travel, living with someone with symptoms/positive COVID-19 case and having been tested for COVID-19. Depending on available resources, companies have different stakeholders oversee screening process: security, receptionist, occupational health/medical team. If an employee is flagged, they are directed to internal occupational health/medical team or external vendor to address next steps (e.g., quarantine, treatment).

Testing

Employers indicated that employees are mostly using the public system for testing needs. One company shared that private system could also approve testing however the cost is higher ($160 in U.S. dollars). Most companies were not providing PCR tests to employees on site, as a positive result could be considered Workers’ Compensation related. Another company is having employees do a fitness for duty test managed by a third party.

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Leave

A number of companies offer global COVID-19 leave policies to cover employees impacted by the virus. Coverage may include being sick, quarantine for 14 days or caregiving responsibilities for children and other people in their residence. By designating a COVID-19 leave code, the companies measure the impact of the pandemic on their workforces.

Well-being

Companies are retooling their well-being initiatives (e.g., employee assistance program [EAP]) to address employees’ mental and physical health needs while being isolated. They are hosting webinars on how to address stress and loneliness and providing virtual mental health solutions to give employees access. Another company is working with their global well-being platform to provide tailored programming to stay healthy while staying home and tools to measure employees’ well-being while at home.

Resources

While most companies are relying on internal global teams as resources, here are some Mexico specific resources (in Spanish) to consider as this unprecedented situation continues to evolve:


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