May 15, 2021

Jasper County to end temporary work policies adopted for pandemic

Supervisors agree to eliminate practices, like paid COVID leave, by end of April

By the end of April, Jasper County will put an end to its temporary employment practices and policies that were put in place last year as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On April 6, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of eliminating the policy at the end of the month.

The county officially adopted the policies in March 2020, which made sure employers and employees followed infection control policies and allowed telecommuting options for staff, among other things. The policy limited non-essential staff meetings, trainings and non-essential work-related travel, too.

Employers were required to grant staff paid leave for COVID-19 isolation, testing, treatment and/or recovery. Because of the policy, high-risk workers could request their department provide an alternate/modified work assignment or leave to accommodate their underlying risk factors.

Currently, almost all of the county offices have reopened to resume normal business, human resources director Dennis Simon said.

“We had left this policy open-ended where the board would have to take additional action to eliminate it,” Simon said, noting he attended a Zoom call with a human resources group of public employers who advised they had done away with most of their COVID-related policies.

Simon placed the policy on the Jasper County Board of Supervisors’ agenda to gauge what the board wanted done with it. The Trump administration, he said, made a number of practices mandatory for employers, such as paid sick leave for employees impacted by COVID-19. But that practice ended Dec. 31, 2020.

“The new administration didn’t make it mandatory — they made it a voluntary program,” Simon said. “We elected to keep ours in place. The employees who chose to have gotten vaccinated have either had the opportunity to do that or have scheduled and should be done by the end of the month.”

It was Simon’s recommendation to end the pandemic practices and policies for county employees by the end of April.

Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma agreed to end the policy. One of the reasons the county created the policy, he said, was to make sure employees were not being punished, because at that point in time last year a potential exposure to the virus meant they’d be quarantined for 10 days.

“And I don’t think any of us felt right essentially punishing our employees and make ‘em burn a hole in their sick/vacation days because of a potential exposure,” Talsma said.

Especially now when that vaccine is being distributed and all county employees are able to receive their doses, he added. Simon also said a couple of weeks have passed since he last signed a COVID-19 leave form for staff. Supervisors Doug Cupples and Denny Carpenter also agreed to end it.

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.