When to Hire Back Construction Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Determining when to hire back employees during a pandemic can be a difficult decision for construction companies. As the coronavirus outbreak forced widespread business closures, many construction projects were put on hold and construction workers were furloughed or laid off. As state and local economies gradually reopen, construction company leaders face unknowns that make it difficult to determine how and when to hire back employees.

To make the right decision about hiring back construction employees, start by answering two important questions.

What Government Regulations Apply?

While the federal government and the CDC offer guidelines for safely managing construction workplaces during and after the pandemic, state governments are actually tasked with setting their own rules for their own jurisdictions. Each state has its own plan, like California’s guidance for the construction industry, for reopening its economy, and some local municipalities have their own specific rules. A construction company’s ability to begin work or bring on a full crew of workers will depend on the location of the job. For instance, some states or municipalities may only allow workers at half capacity, meaning you may be able to hire back only half of your employees or stagger schedules so all team members are not working at the same time. In some locations, all workers may be required to wear face coverings or abide by other safety regulations.

Before hiring back construction workers, check the guidelines for the state and municipality where you plan to start working. Even if the state isn’t allowing construction companies to start working with a full crew just yet, it may be OK in the next phase of its reopening plan. You should be able to see the full plan for reopening on each state government’s website.

Are You Financially Prepared to Rehire?

Even if the state and local governments say it’s fine to get back to work, company leaders must consider how much it costs to hire construction workers and whether it’s currently financially viable to do so. In most cases, construction workers are paid on a weekly basis, so employers must be prepared to run weekly payrolls and have the working capital available to cover payroll until their clients start paying for the work.

Keeping a job site running requires more than just employees. It also requires the appropriate amount of tools, safety gear, and equipment to keep operations rolling. It’s important to calculate these costs in addition to your employee payroll costs when determining whether you’re ready to rehire workers, and if so, how many. It won’t be helpful to have a lot of employees on-site if your company doesn’t have the cash to purchase or rent all the necessary equipment and tools to allow them to do their jobs.

So how much does it cost to hire construction workers? Take time to determine what you’ll need to spend on each potential job — including payroll and equipment — to keep the project moving. Cash flow is often a challenge for small business owners but after experiencing a forced shutdown, like the one required by the pandemic, securing enough capital to rehire workers and move forward with confidence can be especially daunting. Before rehiring workers, consider securing a working capital loan to ensure you can keep them on board.

With proper safety precautions in place, more construction companies and other businesses are prepared to reopen and rehire their employees. But before taking the leap, make sure you’re equipped financially — and on-site — to ensure a smoother recovery for you and your employees.

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