Cannabis businesses – like mainstream U.S. companies – are extending sick pay provisions in response to the coronavirus pandemic to help ensure employees and customers remain safe and healthy.
The measures could prove costly for marijuana companies in the short term at a time when some are struggling financially, but the hope is that stringent health measures could aid in stemming the rapid increase in coronavirus infections.
U.S. government officials might soon make companies offer mandatory sick pay and family leave for work missed because of the coronavirus.
The U.S. House passed provisions early Saturday as part of a larger coronavirus package, but that bill is awaiting action by the Senate. Republican lawmakers in the Senate are indicating they will resist the sick pay provision.
Here is what some cannabis businesses are currently doing:
- Asking and paying for their employees to stay at home and seek medical attention if they have symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.
- Making the effort to more carefully monitor and screen employees in cultivation, processing and dispensary facilities for potential symptoms and requiring them to take more precautions such as wearing gloves and regularly disinfecting surfaces.
- Agreeing to more flexible scheduling to accommodate employee needs and allowing staffers in certain functions to work remotely.
Employees with symptoms advised to ‘stay home’
“If employees have potential symptoms, they are asked to stay home, and it won’t be counted against their sick time,” said Todd Beckwith, director of corporate affairs for AltMed Florida, which has 18 dispensaries in the state.
“It’s changing continuously,” he said. “We’re just trying to do the right thing by all of our stakeholders.”
More U.S. businesses are closing by the hour, and many employees have been told to expect disruptions of their normal schedules for at least eight weeks. President Donald Trump said Monday that disruptions could last until August.
The U.S. House measure passed over the weekend includes a provision that would require employers with a workforce smaller than 500 to provide their workers with two weeks of paid sick leave, at their normal pay rate, so the employees can seek medical attention and quarantine if necessary.
The measure also would require the companies to pay two-thirds of an afflicted employee’s regular pay rate to care for a family member or a child.
The U.S. Senate still would need to pass the provision – part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act – and Trump would then have to sign it into law.
Efforts with unions
Ayr Strategies, a Toronto-based multistate operator with cannabis operations in Nevada and Massachusetts, said it worked closely with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to put in place an expanded sick leave policy to “ensure that employees’ concern about COVID-19 does not keep them from protecting their health or the safety of those around them.”
Exact details of the policy weren’t disclosed by Ayr, whose Sira Naturals in Massachusetts signed the state’s first cannabis union agreement in December.
UFCW officials in Washington DC didn’t immediately respond for comment Monday about whether they had made similar provisions with other cannabis companies that have unionized workforces.
Illinois-based multistate operator Cresco Labs said it has implemented a “Cresco Cares” initiative that provides up to 14 days of paid time off for various situations employees might experience related to coronavirus.
“Our overall goal is to be as supportive and flexible with our employees while we maintain business operations so that our patients and customers can have continued access to the wellness products they rely on every day,” Cresco spokesperson Jason Erkes wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.
Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected]
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