Restrictions on in-person office work “likely” to be extended

Michigan’s emergency rule restricting most in-person office work is “likely” extended for up to six months after it expires in mid-April, according to Sean Egan, COVID-director of workplace safety. 19 for Michigan Department of Labor and Economy. Opportunity.

But Egan said the restrictions could be changed at any time as COVID vaccination rates and case rates change.

The restrictions are in an Oct. 14 emergency order from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). Currently, they are forcing employers to ban in-person work if it can be done remotely.

Some business groups are opposed to an extension of the rule, saying it would hurt the economy and lead to permanent job losses. Reopen Michigan Safely is a newly formed coalition of business leaders calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to “end the office ban on April 14”.

But Egan said describing the rule as a ban is incorrect.

“It’s not the ban they would proclaim,” Egan said. “This forces employers to determine whether [remote work] Is doable. If that is not feasible, these people can work in the office. “

“Remote work in particular office work is probably the best mitigation tool we have,” Egan said. “When we start to bring people together, that’s when we have a hard time cutting the chain of transmission. “

State labor officials have formed a new task force to advise Whitmer on standards and best practices for a gradual return to in-person office work.

“Congregation in any setting creates risk,” Egan said. “Employers have implemented innovative approaches to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the meeting of this new group will provide a mechanism to capture key information to align policies with best health practices and advice. “

The group of business, worker and public health leaders will meet weekly starting Thursday.

Egan said the task force will make recommendations on an ongoing basis.

A spokesperson for Whitmer responded to a request for comment with a written statement:

“The health and safety of Michigan residents continues to be Governor Whitmer’s top priority. While countless Michiganders already travel safely to their workplace, some jobs do not require in-person work, which is why the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is asking employers in these industries to ” allow their employees to work from home. to maximize safety, unless it is absolutely necessary for employees to be in the office. Governor Whitmer has created a task force of business and labor leaders to make recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep their employees safe in the workplace. We’re all eager to get back to normal life, and that’s why our administration is laser-focused on accelerating vaccine delivery and supporting small businesses to help us get there.

Jose C. Birney