Employees are classified into two categories based on the duties/responsibilities of their position. Essential employees are indispensable to providing necessary goods or services to the public and are required to assist in meeting operational needs during emergencies. By comparison, non-essential employees are not required to assist during emergencies. Non-essential employees are not required to report to work during emergencies. In the case of the current social isolation to slow the spread of the virus, non-essential employees are being asked to stay home. When possible, essential employees are being asked to work remotely.

Essential services are the services and functions that are absolutely necessary, even during a pandemic. They maintain the health and welfare of the municipality. Without these services, sickness, poverty, violence, and chaos would likely result. While each municipality will need to determine what its essential services are, here are some examples include: executive governance; healthcare; fire and police protection; provision of clean water; basic sanitation (sewage and garbage removal); maintenance of communication infrastructure (telephone system, radio, internet); maintenance of utilities (gas, electric, etc.); provision of food and other essential goods; transportation; road maintenance/repair; banking; payroll departments; tax collection services. Essential goods are the food and other supplies that a municipality needs to survive, such as medical supplies and gasoline. Essential workers are the personnel needed to maintain essential services.

Non-essential services are the services that are not essential to a municipality’s survival and can be stopped or closed down during a pandemic. Some examples of non-essential services or goods are tourism industry; culture/entertainment; libraries; retail stores; and barber shops. While consumers enjoy being able to partake in purchasing these goods or services, in times of emergency/crisis these services are not necessary to maintain the basic necessities of consumers.

Think about your position or your company. Are you an essential employee? Does the company that you work for provide essential services? If so, it is best to prepare a plan for your home-front to detail who will provide care to children, pets, etc. If you are not an essential employee, it is also good to prepare a plan of how you will proceed if you are out of work for several days/weeks as a result of an emergency or crisis.

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