Dress Code to Pandemic Enforcement: Why HR Shouldn't Have to Police

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Although Human Resources Professionals have come a long way by providing Managers and Executives the proper tools and trainings to manage their own employees, there seems to remain an unspoken belief that HR is still needed to enforce a necessary outcome.


Managers properly trained have the knowledge and confidence to address certain awkward topics such as the female that wears a summer dress too short for the office, the gentleman that wears way too much cologne to work, or the employee that needs to improve upon their hygiene habits. HR can resume organizational priorities such as strategy, succession planning, growth, etc.


The organization seems to be operating smoothly, then BAM! A new topic of uncertainty and confusion rears its ugly head, “The Pandemic.” Between the new state-wide restrictions and Congress passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), HR professionals were a bit overwhelmed, to put it mildly! The amount of information that was being delivered daily, and with changes, was head-spinning. How would we ever get our arms around all the changing circumstances, laws, protections, accommodations, etc.? Organizations were looking to HR professionals to be the experts in the areas to which they too were only learning.


Thankfully, we have come a long way since March 2020, yet it seems like such a long period of time. We now have a better understanding of the laws that were passed to assist employees and businesses during this time. As the current stimulus package is due to expire at the end of December 2020, it’s hard to predict what Congress will pass next, but for HR we’ll need to be ready, to review, interpret, and understand the new law quickly in order to support employees and the organization. In the meantime, as we work to sustain the economy, businesses must do all they can to protect their employees’ health and safety. That means following the CDC, and State Department of Health guidelines, to conduct in-person operations.


HR has been at the helm working with senior management in all organizations during the Pandemic to assess, implement, and continually monitor the organization’s Pandemic Policy operations. In addition, HR is in the driver’s seat to oversee the adherence to pandemic protocols. One protocol that continues to be a point of contention among many Americans is mask-wearing. We must make sure all employees know the PROPER way to wear a mask and DO SO when onsite. The days of dealing with the employee who heats up seafood in the microwave seem long gone given the magnitude of the Pandemic. Managers now look to HR to address employees when they are not following the current pandemic protocols. Although the Federal Government and OSHA have not mandated the wearing of face masks, many states have done so on their own.


In a recent article posted with The Society of Human Resources Management SHRM stated that even though many employees feel a sense of comfort having to wear masks at work, they also feel stressed within the work environment because there is not always 100% compliance amongst all employees. It will take ALL of management, not just HR, to address and correct any non-compliance by their employees during the pandemic and look ahead with the hopes that we can shift to a TEAM, not ME attitude when it comes to mask-wearing.