July 30th, 2020 | Joy Henry, General Manager - Financial and Business Services

4 Tips for Return-to-Work Planning in Financial Services

Woman working wearing a mask

In a marked first, financial services organizations that historically operated in-office have moved most business online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the years, even as electronic trading gained momentum, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) continued to maintain the physical trading floor. Until COVID-19. For the first time in history, NYSE relied exclusively on electronic trading and closed the trading floor.

While many businesses are comfortable moving their workforce remote for prolonged periods (some in tech, including Twitter and Facebook, have even announced that employees can work from home permanently), some financial organizations need to return to work and get back into the office as quickly as possible. Many roles are customer-facing, require on-premise infrastructure, or must adhere to compliance requirements that make it difficult or nearly impossible to support remote work.

As employees now start returning to workplace offices, businesses are confronted with a new set of rules. The pandemic continues (and in some places surges). How do they return to offices while maintaining a healthy and safe environment?

Graphic about health and safety environments

Graphic on health and work environments

Based on many conversations with our clients, and strategies that we’ve implemented together with them, we’ve identified the following 4 important tips to consider in building your return-to-work strategy.

1. COVID-19 Active Virus (PCR) Testing

Many organizations are implementing Active Virus (PCR) testing to inform whether an employee has the active SARS CoV-2 virus and potentially poses a risk of infecting others. This type of testing is performed before returning to the workplace as well as at regular intervals, such as every 14 days. Testing enables businesses to assess whether an employee poses a health risk to others in the workspace, and re-testing allows them to continue to identify infected persons before they begin showing symptoms.

Tests need to be administered properly (either through nasal swab or saliva test), to provide optimal results. As testing continues to evolve and come to market, we recommend partnering with an industry-leading lab to ensure access to the latest FDA-approved testing.

While testing employees is helpful in identifying infection, it is not enough on its own, since employees can catch the infection at any point after testing. In addition to re-testing, businesses can implement additional health directives in the event an employee gets infected in-between tests.

2. Health Directives

In addition to implementing testing to determine when employees can safely return to work, the CDC provides guidance on health directives within the office to slow the spread of the virus. Guidance includes conducting daily health checks, conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace, encouraging employees to wear face masks when appropriate, implementing policies and practices for social distancing, and improving ventilation systems.

3. Data Storage

Taking the CDC guidelines into account, organizations are developing plans that include surveying employees about their health and travel history, administering regular COVID-19 testing, temperature taking, and quarantining when information indicates infection.

Organizations need to figure out how to implement these measures, as well as where to store the data. The ADA requires all medical information about an employee be stored separate from the employee’s personal file. All information related to COVID-19 – including an employee’s or employer’s statement or note that an employee was infected with the virus, description of symptoms, temperature, or COVID-19 test results – must be stored in an employee’s medical file separate from other employee files to protect confidential information.

4. Risk Assessment for New and Returning Employees

Once banks and others in the financial services industry develop new health and safety protocols, they should re-establish screening requirements for hiring, rehiring, and returning to work within this environment.

Financial institutions are responsible for protecting their customers from dishonest, reckless, or fraudulent behavior. Candidates and employees should be rescreened appropriately for indicative events that either disqualify them from performing securities-related functions, or require establishing supervisory controls for safety and security. It’s important that these background screening and rescreening programs include credit, liens, judgments, and bankruptcies to flag risk.

Man working from laptop

Find a Trusted Partner to Execute Your Plan

Financial organizations are tasked with quickly establishing return-to-work processes and programs so that employees can return to the office and resume operations.

However, guidelines keep changing, testing continues to evolve, and confusion abounds. We recommend partnering with a third party that has existing relationships with organizations at the forefront of occupational health testing to create order and process while developing these programs quickly and efficiently. Ensure the partner is focused on the quality of tests, has relationships with reliable laboratories, and uses safe and convenient nationwide collection sites to support your organization.

An additional benefit of an outside party is the confidentiality and controls that are put in place external from the business operations for storing and leveraging sensitive employee medical information.

In response to customer demand, Sterling has developed flexible COVID-19 health testing services to support your organization’s return-to-work plan. With 45 years of screening experience, relationships with nationwide laboratories, and a deep understanding of health mandates and regulatory compliance, we have the tools and service system in place to administer and execute testing services for your organization.

Schedule a call with one of our representatives so that we can learn more about your return-to-work plan and begin executing quickly and efficiently.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.