COVID-19 Resources for Manufacturers

Dear Colleagues,
Members of the MEP National Network have consulted lawyers, national networks, and resources to bring practical guidance and real information specifically for manufacturers.

This is NOT one of those emails about how our company is handling the crisis. This is a list of the best resources we can find to help you, Wisconsin manufacturer, weather the storm. 

Our team at WMEP Manufacturing Solutions and the MEP National Network have compiled a one-stop shop for many of your questions, big and small. As we get new information, we will be continuously updating our resource page here.

WMEP Manufacturing Solutions is committed to doing whatever it takes to help the manufacturing community stay strong. 

We hope you find these resources valuable in helping your company navigate these challenging times. 

We wish you, your work and home families continued health and well being. 

Take care. 

Tim Wiora
Executive Director/CEO
WMEP Manufacturing Solutions


Here are 11 practical considerations and action items:

Management Tip 1:  FMLA rules have changed, and if you are under 500 employees you need to read this article IN FULL.

IMPORTANT: Even if you are under 50 employees and normally are exempt from the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, these changes apply to you and go into effect around April 2. Essentially, the new law means that
all companies must provide 80 hours of sick leave for all full-time employees. You will pay upfront to employees but be reimbursed fully by the federal government in the form of a refundable tax credit.

This is not in addition to other sick leave provided by the company, but is before any other sorts of time off are to be used. There are nuances of how much you pay based upon the reason for sick leave. This sick leave can only be used for pre-approved Coronavirus issues. Read here for more.

Management Tip 2: Have you modeled your cash position?
Cash is king, and there are two programs that might help you - the SBA disaster relief loans and an employee furloughing program - as a way to reduce hours without laying your people off... read more
Management Tip 3: Explore your insurance coverage
Everyone's business interruption insurance and general insurance is different, but you don't want to miss out if something shuts you down. Get in front of your lawyer and broker right more. Here is a bulletin posted by The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.

Management Tip 4: Double down on your customers, they are still your lifeblood
While this crisis is likely going to get worse before better, communicate and be there for your customers as a top priority. Do not let urgency be the enemy of the more
HR Tip 5: What about OSHA, HR, and safety concerns related to the virus?
Culled from hundreds of questions, here are the top HR questions we have heard.   All answers and the full list is here.
  • What can or can't I ask my employees about their health because of HIPAA? Answer here. 
  • When can or can't I put someone on unemployment insurance? What if they need to take care of kids? What if they are quarantined? What if I just want them to go home because they are worried? Answer here.
  • Is there a best practice with regard to a manufacturer who has seen an infection? What does the law say and what is best practice once we have sent someone home? Do we have any risk because the infected person was in the shop and touched surfaces? When might we actually have to shut our facility down legally and from best practice? Answer here.
  • Can I send an employee home if they display symptoms? Can I take their temperature? What if they have traveled to a COVID locations? What if they have tested positive for COVID? Answer here.
  • Am I liable if an employee is ill at work? Can employees refuse to come in because they fear being infected? Answer here.
  • When would I need to shut down, how can I avoid doing that? Answer here.
  • How can vacation time/paid time off/sick time be required to be used and for what purposes? Can I advance time from later in the year? What if it is all exhausted, do I need to pay for more? Answer here.
  • What do I do if I am forced to temporarily lay off employees or significantly reduce their hours? Answer here.

HR Tip 6: How will unemployment changes in Wisconsin affect me?
The state is changing requirements for unemployment right now, and rates may go up in the future.  Read more
HR Tip 7: Now is the time to build company loyalty (and dispel crazy rumors).
Understanding what you can do to help your employees feel calm and share real information about this pandemic is critical. We have compiled the best resources here. Read more
IT Tip 8: With strange times come more attempts to phish, beware. Make sure you have updated your cybersecurity.  
There has been a rise in phishing schemes taking advantage of panic-stricken employees.  It never hurts to reinforce the need to respond appropriately to strange emails. Read more: Imposters pretending to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) , Coronavirus Scams Telework Security Basics

Operations Tip 9: How are other manufacturers protecting themselves in their plant?
South Korean companies are the gold standard these days. We have compiled some of their best practices. Read more
Operations Tip 10: Are you disinfecting all of the areas you need to with EPA-approved COVID cleaners?  Read more

Management Tip 11: Will you look for the opportunity even in this disaster?
We are all going to have to hunker down and survive first, but as leaders we have to continue looking to the future to provide hope and to make sure that when things are better we are better. Read more