Some of My Employees Don’t Want to Return to Work

by Evil HR Lady on June 2, 2020

We’ve been given the go-ahead from the government to re-open our business. The only problem is that the employees don’t want to come back. The hourly staff is making more on unemployment than they do working, and the exempt staff has been working from home and aren’t thrilled about returning to the office. Is there anything I can do to get our staff to come back?

To read my answer, click here: Some of My Employees Don’t Want to Return to Work

Leave your own in the comments!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

parker davis June 2, 2020 at 3:48 pm

First, not the employment “board”, here in good ole USA.. (always find it disingenuous that someone who has spent years out of US purports to understand and give advice on how to handle US issues). But to the point, many states have revised unemployment qualifications to include that an employee who has a good faith fear of contracting the virus, or has underlying health conditions, or is acting under the advice of a medical professional will not be denied unemployment benefits. Also would have been appropriate to advise employers to make sure decisions are in compliance with federal and state regulations regarding the definition of disability/sick leave. But thank you for sharing your foreign perspectives.


Marie June 2, 2020 at 7:20 pm



Marie June 2, 2020 at 7:25 pm

Did you read the article? Many states have Unemployment “Boards” in one form or fashion to allow for appeals or other related business. I’m not sure what you’re on about with the “foreign” thing. There is nothing wrong with her advice.


Gail June 3, 2020 at 2:05 am

@ parker davis: Suzanne’s advice was spot on. Even as a fellow HR person with 20 years experience and senior-level certification, I couldn’t have answered this question any better than she did! Suzanne spent a decade in US HR and clearly keeps up with current events; she knows what she’s talking about.


parker davis June 3, 2020 at 2:00 pm

If you are indeed a “qualified” HR person you would indeed realize that changes in everything HR related (laws, training, work at home, benefits, etc, etc make anything you learned years ago irrelevant. Would you feel comfortable listening to a doctor who has been out of the profession for years. Or move to a city based on the recommendation of someone who lived in the city 15 years ago? BTW, hold many certifications and found that those have no correlation with top notch HR performance.


Marie June 3, 2020 at 5:51 pm

It’s still her job to be current on industry trends.


Bobboccio June 2, 2020 at 4:18 pm

Seems so weird to me that Americans are returning to work when 7000 of them died of Corona in the last week, and more than 20 000 Americans every day are being diagnosed with Corona.

It’s not over!


James June 2, 2020 at 4:37 pm

Many people don’t have a choice. There’s a lot of poverty in the USA, and a lot of people who have a lot of debt. When the options come down to the choice between “Possibly catch a disease that has a <5% chance of being fatal" and "Certainty of losing your car/house and being unable to feed your children", you go to work.

Remember, nearly 50% of the COVID-19 deaths in the USA (at least last time I looked at the numbers, late last week) come from assisted living and nursing homes. For a guy in his mid-30s, working with a bunch of people in their mid-20s to late 40s, the disease is likely to be an annoyance, if we even know we have it (asymptomatic infections are hard to pin down, but antibody testing seems to indicate they're not uncommon). It's a roll of the dice, sure–but the odds are it'll come up in our favor.

The other thing to remember is that the USA is huge. I've never met a European that fully grasps the implications of this. Averages simply cannot be applied universally within a country of this size and this variety of habitats. A rural village in a county of less than 100,000 people simply isn't going to have the same response to the virus as New York City. San Bernardino, CA–which is 95% or more desert wasteland with maybe one person per square mile–isn't going to be the same as Allen County, Ohio, which is composed of small villages around a larger city (where everyone works) and has a much higher population density.

It's very likely–almost certain–that some areas will be able to re-open before others reach their peaks. The average isn't the whole story; it's not even a synopses.

That's not to say it's not justifiable to avoid coming into an office, particularly if you're in an at-risk group. It does, however, mean that there's a lot more that goes into this risk assessment than "numbers are going up".


Bobboccio June 2, 2020 at 5:39 pm

You are right I was probably too glib. There’s no easy answers here, because it’s not just a matter of “stay locked down another two weeks.” And massive rioting is already happening, so another year of lock-down is out of the question.

And if I was in rural Arkansas, I would definitely be thinking that I should be able to open my store.

Returning to the cube is concerning to me though, when you see studies saying that “this person eating dinner was contagious and over the course of the meal infected ten other people seated in the same restaurant.”


Roger Rabbit June 2, 2020 at 4:30 pm

There can be legitimate issues with returning to work. Some things I’ve seen in my travels over time: Almost none of the hallways are 6′ wide; open offices put people far closer than 6′; cubicles with less than 5′ high “walls” locate the “computer corner” so four cubicles weight-balance each other, meaning those four people are about 4′ away all day long; public bathrooms do not have a 6′ wide space anywhere and ADA only requires a 5′ turning radius for wheelchairs.

Basically, to work in offices people must violate all the public health guidelines. Although you could argue that people should wear masks all day long,in my personal scientifically inaccurate estimation, I’ve seen over 75% of those masks protecting peoples’ foreheads and necks, and the remainder where they belong – this is for the people who actually wore one, with again 75% of the general populace without one – meaning only about 6.25% of the people in public are wearing one and wearing it correctly.

I periodically refer to Worldometers dot info for Coronavirus updates and the current U.S. trend is that the number of new cases is flattening at 20-25k new cases per day while the number of new deaths is declining to 1,000 to 750 per day. These current stats are staggering high. Putting a face on these stats, a relative of mine was diagnosed three weeks ago and that night he died, leaving behind a distraught family, one who also contracted it from him.

I have informed my day-job company that I plan to be back in the office about two weeks after I have a vaccine shot in my arm. For the past few years my job is almost solely being online and on the phone so being remote is not a big deal. I also teach college courses as an adjunct and since the beginning of March I’ve been doing this online. My uni informed me that since I don’t want to teach in-person in September, in classrooms and buildings that do not allow social distancing, they will not give me any classes to teach.


MariaRose June 3, 2020 at 12:54 am

We are still in the middle despite some attitudes of dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, and yes, here in the USA, unemployment, across the states has been adapted to accommodate the need to be unemployed because of the crisis. But unemployment length is determined by the individual states as there is no federal law in place. That extra $600/weekly provision does come from the federal government and is considered income, probably taxable income in total income received, especially if you have a high unemployment benefit which is based on your earnings before having to apply for unemployment.
Yeah, I know that people who were part-time before the COVID-19 quarantine lockdown and on unemployment are making more money and okay, they don’t feel the incentive to go back to work just yet, if ever. The employees, that you, the employer, really value, should never feel that benefits (unemployment) are a better financial situation, so if you want those employees back, you need to spend some money to retain them.
As for guaranteeing their positions to still be there, if they refuse to come back, despite you putting in place the required standards as required, then they, the employees, have abandoned their position, by choice, and you the employer have the right to either replace them or eliminate the position entirely.


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