BBB Business Tips: Requiring Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination from Customers

It's a question on every business owner's mind: To require vaccinations or not? Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland recommends the following tips to help you develop and implement a plan.

 

With quick changes to operations, supply and labor shortages, and general increases to the costs of running a business, the pandemic continues to keep business owners on their toes. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention guidance and federal mandates are constantly shifting as the pandemic evolves, and while vaccination rates are on the rise, dangerous variants mean we’re not out of the woods just yet. Amidst these obstacles and general anxieties that many are experiencing, business owners have said in a BBB study that enhancing trust in their customer base is a new challenge. The next obstacle many businesses are facing: whether they should require proof of vaccination from their employees and customers.

Currently, the federal government has decided against a unified vaccine passport program or requirement, which means you might be thinking of how and if you should verify/require your customers’ vaccination claims. It’s important to think ahead when planning your vaccine policy, no matter how you decide to navigate this phase of the pandemic. You may decide on an honor system, where you simply ask the person if they are fully vaccinated or you may ask to see the person’s CDC vaccination card for more concrete proof. 

Before getting started, you may want to consult with your legal counsel. Since local and federal government guidelines and recommendations are constantly changing, it is wise to speak with your legal team before implementing any vaccination mandates. This not only will ensure you make the best decisions to protect the health of your employees and staff, it will make sure you are not violating anyone's rights.

Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland recommends the following tips to help you develop and implement a plan.

Clearly communicate your policies. Once you determine your company policy, make it known to your employees and customers. By communicating a clear and consistent message, it will help everyone understand your company's expectations. Communicate these policies by posting signs throughout your business’s physical space, as well as digitally on your website and social media platforms. Communicating with your customers also helps build trust, with 42% of businesses in a BBB study saying increasing their communication efforts was the most significant way they were growing trust within their customer base.

Give employees extra training. As part of the communication process, provide training to your employees to deal with customers. Training may include how to respectfully communicate the company's vaccination policies, how to help customers comply, and alternatives for those who may choose not to show proof or are unable to be vaccinated. Employees should also understand how to handle potentially violent situations, especially if you live in a community where attitudes towards the vaccine are not favorable. By providing training, employees will gain consistency and confidence. 

RELATED: The importance of training employees during the pandemic.

Protect your business reputation when requiring proof of vaccination from customers. To avoid accusations of discriminatory practices, it is wise to offer alternative options for customers who cannot or who have chosen not to be vaccinated. Consider how you might require proof of vaccination while still honoring your customer and staff’s right to privacy.

You can also consider alternative services for unvaccinated customers or those who are concerned about becoming sick, such as: curbside pick-ups, online sales, local delivery, and outdoor dining areas.

Learn to spot fake vaccine cards. From phony websites that try to get your personal information to fake COVID contact tracing scams, and even fake Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) phishing emails, there has been a rise in scams throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Fake vaccine cards are no different. As we see a rise in phony vaccine cards, learn to recognize the tell-tale signs that can help you and your employees spot them. 

RELATED: Tips for dealing with aggressive customers.

When checking a vaccine card make sure all the information is filled out and the vaccination dates align with the timing each vaccine became CDC approved. For those who received a two-dose vaccine with a few weeks between each dose, it makes sense that there should be two sets of handwriting on the card. Both fields filled out in the same handwriting could be a red flag. Third, watch out for fully printed cards since most care providers fill out the information by hand. 

If you spot a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. 

For more tips and resources visit BBB.org/cleveland to help keep your small business thriving. Contact your Better Business Bureau by calling 216.241.7678 or emailing info@cleveland.bbb.org. Interested in BBB Accreditation? Find out how you can apply for Accreditation.

 
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  • Next up: RITE HR IT Roundtable - Measuring the Immeasurable
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  • RITE HR IT Roundtable - Measuring the Immeasurable

    Watch our discussion exploring HR-related frameworks to assess your strengths and opportunities and how to capitalize on data to get the buy-in you need for your HR initiatives.

    The most recent RITE HR IT Roundtable featured Michelle Leighton, Chief Talent Officer at Lifebanc. Michelle has over 20 years of Human Resources and Organization Development experience across various industries, including manufacturing, banking, insurance and healthcare. Her proven leadership in talent management, development and business acumen earned her an HR Business Leader Award in 2016.

    Michelle explored a framework for leveraging creative data capture and analysis to optimize investments in sourcing, interviewing, on-boarding, development, and retention that enable competitive advantage in the marketplace. 

    Watch the presentation below:

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  • Next up: Safety Council Recap: 5 Questions to Ask About Your Business
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  • Safety Council Recap: 5 Questions to Ask About Your Business

    Security prevention and response is more important than ever. Here are five security-related questions attendees of the July 12 COSE Safety Council were asked to consider.

    Corporations today have a greater need to be more cognizant and proactive about physical security prevention and response for their businesses. This is more important today than ever in the history of America. The COSE Safety Council provided a unique presentation to address these issues at their July 12 Safety Council meeting.

     

     

    Here’s an overview of what was discussed.

     

    Tim Dimoff and SACS Consulting delivered the first segment by explaining the current security threats that now play into the many different businesses in America. After Dimoff’s presentation, five security-related companies explained cutting-edge counter solutions to the growing security exposures.

     

    These experts discussed the following five points: 

    1. Has your company recently conducted a complete security assessment? 

    2.Have you determined what are the most likely security risks that you face? 

    3. Do you have a strong keying or card access system? What are the advantages to each? 

    4. What non-lethal defense mechanisms can you access?

    5. What are the top three cyber security threats and how can you prevent them?

    In conclusion, it makes sense for all businesses to proactively update their preventive defensives to today's security threats. 

     

    Learn more about COSE’s Workers’ Compensation program by clicking here

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  • Next up: Safety Council Recap: 5 Steps to Take After a Serious Workplace Incident
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  • Safety Council Recap: 5 Steps to Take After a Serious Workplace Incident

    Attorney and consultant William Haak spoke to the Northeast Ohio Safety Counsel Aug. 9 concerning serious workplace incidents (and how to ensure things go right after they've gone horribly wrong). Haak, the founder of environmental, health and safety legal and consulting firm Haak Law LLC, has more than 23 years of environmental experience and 17 years of occupational safety experience.  During his presentation, he provided real world examples of workplace crises and how employers should respond to protect their people, their business, and the communities surrounding their facilities.

    According to Haak, serious workplace incidents include:

    1. Injuries and fatalities;
    2. fires, explosions, and other accidents;
    3. workplace violence;
    4. spills or releases of hazardous substances;
    5. severe weather incidents; and
    6. incidents that might not seem "serious" that become serious because of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

    The above-listed incidents could strike at any business regardless of size. Preparedness and knowing exactly what to do before a serious incident occurs is the key to success.

    Haak recommends having policies and procedures in place to guide your business through what he refers to as "the Serious Incident Golden Hour"—the first 60 minutes after a serious incident occurs. In addition to protecting life (including employees, visitors, etc.), protecting your property and assets, and securing the scene along with first responders such as police and fire personnel, it is important to:

    1. Establish an incident commander and an incident command post;
    2. begin early stages of an incident investigation to determine what went wrong;
    3. preserve the scene (for investigation) and collect evidence and witness statements;
    4. make required notifications to regulatory agencies such as EPA and OSHA; and
    5. communicate any facts you know to interested stakeholders including superiors and subordinates, first responders, the community (the media), and impacted family members

    All of these important steps can—and should—be practiced in routine crisis drills. Carefully crafted crisis drills can provide important insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your crisis response plans.

    Finally, as an attorney, Haak advises legal counsel be involved early on for more serious incidents.  Legal counsel can assist your incident commander in many tasks including making regulatory notifications and developing talking points. An attorney with the right background and experience can also help lead your incident investigation. Most importantly, involvement of legal counsel can help establish the attorney-client privilege (which can provide you with some important protection should an incident lead to litigation).

    For more information, please contact William Haak of Haak Law LLC at whh@haaklawllc.com or 216-772-3532.  You can also visit www.haaklawllc.com.

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  • Next up: Save Money on Lost Time Claims: Open Enrollment Continues Through May 28
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  • Save Money on Lost Time Claims: Open Enrollment Continues Through May 28

     

    As a Managed Care Organization (MCO), it is 1-888-OhioComp’s responsibility to ensure that injured workers receive the best treatment and return to work safely while minimizing the financial impact to you, the employer.

    There are more than 91,000 Active Lost Time claims currently managed by the 10 MCOs in Ohio. Lost Time claims are the most expensive claims and have the greatest impact on an employer’s premium.

    The Active Lost Time claims managed by 1-888-OhioComp have the:

    - Lowest Claim Costs for Lost Time claims of any MCO
    - Lowest Medical Costs for Lost Time claims of any MCO
    - Lowest Indemnity Costs for Lost Time claims of any MCO
                                                       Data Source: BWC report Sp20-004427 (12/18/20)


    Open Enrollment for workers’ compensation Managed Care Organizations (MCO) continues through May 28. COSE and Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) endorse and recommend 1-888-OhioComp as the preferred MCO for our members.

    During the month of May, many Third-Party Administrators (TPAs) try to confuse employers and have them sign an AC-3 and an MCO enrollment form. An AC-3 will get you a quote for TPA services and does not obligate you; a signed MCO enrollment form automatically switches you to their MCO.

    Be careful what you sign in May.

    To select 1-888-OHIOCOMP as your MCO, just click the link and fill out the form and return it to us by May 28. It couldn’t be easier! There are no costs for our services. If you have any questions or want to schedule a meeting (virtual or in-person), please call us at 1-888-644-6266. 

    Enrollment forms received after 5 p.m. on May 28 cannot be processed. Please fax the form to 216-446-6100 or email enroll@1-888-ohiocomp.com.

    Enrollment Form

    Claims Management

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  • Next up: SBA Loan Programs Meet More Business Needs
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  • SBA Loan Programs Meet More Business Needs

     

    The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the go-to resource for small business financing needs. Working through traditional financial institutions like banks, the SBA offers several loan programs specifically designed to meet the unique funding needs of businesses. For many of these businesses, qualifying for an SBA loan can be the difference between staying in or going out of business.

    “A banker experienced in SBA loans offers much more than loan documentation,” said Dell Duncan, First Federal Lakewood vice president of commercial lending and SBA specialist. “The best will advise borrowers, help set expectations, foresee potential pitfalls and continuously communicate to ensure the borrower is well-informed throughout the loan process.”

    Working through a financial partner to understand and apply for the most appropriate SBA loan program is the best way to ensure a timely process and increase the likelihood of approval. The commercial banker will work with the SBA directly to make the process smooth for the borrower and the lending institution. 

    The SBA’s 7(a) loan program and the 504 loan program are the SBA loans most widely sought and used by small businesses. The two programs have similar eligibility requirements, usage criteria, amortization schedules, interest rates and funding limits., but there are some unique differences.

    The 7(a) SBA Loan Program
    Offering help for small businesses, this loan program is the most common SBA loan program, and has a number of loan types. The variety of acceptable uses makes 7(a) loans attractive to many businesses seeking loan options. Loan funds can be used for any sound business purpose, including real estate purchase (land and buildings), construction, business acquisitions, working capital, refinance of existing debt, and the purchase of furniture, fixtures, and supplies. 

    7(a) loans can be up to $5 million and traditionally carry a 75% SBA guarantee. In order to provide greater funding for small businesses during the pandemic, the guarantee has been increased to 90% through the end of 2021.

    Eligibility requirements include meeting the SBA’s small business definition, operating for profit, operating a legal business purpose and operating in the United States or U.S. territories. The business owner must have some equity in the business and demonstrate a need for the funding. 

    A 7(a) loan is usually repaid in monthly installments of principal and interest. Rates can be fixed or variable. The lender establishes the interest rate based on the borrower’s payment history, collateral, credit score, and other factors. 

    A type of 7(a) loan, the Express Loan offers faster approval time, generally within 2-3 days from completed application, and can be approved for amounts up to $1 million with 75% SBA guarantee through the end of September 2021.  Small businesses like that the loan can be initially funded as a line of credit, with advances as needed, then termed out over a five to seven year period.

    “The SBA guarantee allows us to take a closer look at applications that may not qualify under stricter conventional business loan standards,” said Duncan. “It opens the door a little wider for businesses that need financial help, and would otherwise be declined.”

    504 Loan Program
    The 504 loan program continues to grow in popularity due to the low interest rate environment. These loans, up to $5 million, are funded by the bond market, backed by the SBA, and give small businesses access to more attractive fixed rate terms – 10, 20 or 25 years – and fixed rates that are often ½% less than other funding sources. The flip side is that 504 loans can only be used to fund fixed assets such as machinery and equipment; owner-occupied real estate, including new facilities or existing real estate; and commercial property improvement. Loan funds cannot be used for working capital or inventory, consolidating, speculation or investment in rental real estate. 

    Eligible 504 loan borrowers must have a tangible net worth of less than $5 million, average net income of less than $5 million after federal income taxes for two years before application, operate as a for-profit company in the United States or its possessions. In addition to SBA size guidelines, eligibility requirements include qualified management expertise, a feasible business plan, good character and the ability to repay the loan.

    Borrower Benefits
    The SBA was established to help small businesses prosper by making credit available to businesses that for various reasons would not qualify for conventional commercial loans. These can include less than perfect credit, short, or no operating histories, or those operating in certain industries that are considered riskier to traditional lenders. 

    For SBA loan borrowers, under temporary guidelines established by the recent economic stimulus package, the SBA will make the first three months of loan payments, up to a total of $9,000 per month. In addition, the SBA guarantee fee, usually about 2.3% of the loan amount and passed along to the borrower, is waived until funding runs out later this year. These temporary cost-savings are intended to help more small businesses reduce financing expenses during the impacts of COVID-19. 

    Other criteria appeal to SBA borrowers. Industry eligibility for SBA loans is broader than traditional banks provide. SBA loans generally require a lower equity infusion from the borrower. The SBA may require owner equity as low as 10% instead of a bank’s 20-25% equity requirement.  The SBA will not decline a loan due to lack of collateral.  Inconsistent debt service capacity is acceptable if there is a valid reason (like the COVID pandemic).  The SBA has a little more flexibility in weighting a borrower’s credit score. A longer repayment period, resulting in lower monthly payments, also make SBA Loans attractive to businesses that need to conserve cash.  

    Getting Started
    The SBA doesn’t expect small business owners to decipher hundreds of pages of programs, guidelines and regulations to apply for its loan programs. Instead, business owners work with a local banker who will take time to understand the business and the financing request and work with the borrower and the SBA throughout the entire process to generate the most useful financing arrangement in the most efficient manner.

    Not all banks and commercial bankers are active or dedicated to the SBA programs, so business owners may need to talk with more than one institution until they are comfortable with the banker’s SBA knowledge and ability to recommend and facilitate the right SBA financing option for the business’s best interest. 

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