Essential Business Sample Letter and Memo to Employees

As the nation continues to work during the COVID-19 outbreak, assuring staff understands why they’re being asked to work and that they’re able to report to work is necessary

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How to communicate your businesses’ “essential” status to employees

As many of the nation’s businesses shutter its doors, either by government mandates or voluntarily, some workers are still reporting for duty. We have created sample Essential Business Letters to Employees to serve as a memo to them to assist in clear communication during the pandemic.

Many businesses are considered “essential” to keep Americans fed, secure, and  healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government has created guidelines on what businesses are necessary to keep the country moving forward. Organizations are working to assure they continue to provide necessary goods, support, and services.

Many states and cities have mandated non-essential business be closed, while dozens of other states and cities are enacting shelter in place initiatives.

These mandates require businesses to shutter unless they provide necessary “essential” services to the public.

What is an essential business?

For members of the public, essential businesses include:

  • Banks
  • Pharmacies
  • Retail establishments that sell food and necessary household items

Some food providers can keep their drive-through or pickup business in place, but have to close their public seating areas.

But retailers and drive-through food providers aren’t the only essential businesses defined by the federal government.

According to a March 19, 2020 memo published by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA): “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”

These workers include healthcare, public safety, utilities, communication, construction,  and more. Many states are adopting the CISA guidelines when determining which businesses, if any, in their region should be subjected to closures as the coronavirus continues its path across the country and which are essential to keep open during the crisis.

Some workers clearly understand the need to work: healthcare providers, first responders and police know their jobs are critically important at this time.

Others may wonder whether they qualify as “essential” workers.

SMBs should look to the CISA guidelines and communicate the organizations’ status to staff members. A formal letter, email, or text can be helpful in outlining the need to continue working, answer employee questions and provide resources staff members can use to find additional information.

Is your organization covered under the “Essential Business” guidelines?

CISA has developed an advisory list of industries and workers considered “essential to continued critical infrastructure viability.”

While the list is by no means exhaustive, it outlines workers across manufacturing, construction, warehousing, distribution and logistics, retail, and food service industries, among a range of other public and private organizations the government considers necessary to keep the country moving during the crisis.

If your industry is on the list, the guidance can provide support when you discuss why employees should continue to report to work.

Staff members need guidance on why they’re being asked to work when other businesses are temporarily closed. Many organizations provide staff with information on what is considered “essential.”

Letters should outline why staffers are asked to work, and provide links to government websites that address the need to keep supply chains, necessary services, and other workers employed during the crisis. Organizations can craft a basic letter to staff members to provide clarity.

Sample ‘essential business’ letter to staff members

Below, you’ll find a sample letter to send to staff members:

Dear Valued Staff Member,

As we work as a nation to combat the COVID-19 virus, [XYZ Corporation] is asking you continue to work. Our industry is listed as part of the country’s “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce.”

The work we do, products we provide, and the infrastructure support your efforts make will help the nation ensure continuity of functions that are critical to safety, public health and wellbeing, and economic and national security.

The federal government has developed a list of businesses, governmental and private organizations, and industries considered essential to maintain the safety of the public and the nation’s economy. That list includes employees such as yourself. You can find  it here:

https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce

XYZ Corporation will continue to provide goods, services and infrastructure support during the COVID-19 crisis. We’re counting on your help to do so.

As we ask our employees to continue to work, [XYZ Corporation] understands this may be problematic for some staff members. Children may be home due to school closures, and family members may need care.

If you cannot report for work due to the COVID-19  crisis, please contact <Name, phone, email address> to discuss you situation and potential alternatives, including remote work.

We will work as safely as possible under these conditions, and welcome your suggestions and support to do so. Thank you for your continued commitment to [XYZ Corporation].

Sample ‘essential worker’ letters to address shelter in place rules

For many workers, local and state “stay-in-place” warnings are of concern to workers. They worry they will be stopped by police officers en route to work and be sent home. Many large organizations are issuing “Essential Worker” letters for staff members to provide to law enforcement in just such an instance.

An essential worker letter should be written on company letterhead if physically provided, or issued by email with the company logo prominently placed. Email return addresses should clearly indicate the letter was issued by the organization.

An essential worker sample could include:

Sample essential worker letter for retail businesses

This team member works at a retail location considered vital to maintaining supplies for the community. Please allow the holder of the letter (or email recipient) to proceed to and from work in accordance with the CISA guidelines of essential workers.

Sincerely,

[Company president]

Sample essential worker letter for food industry businesses

This team member works at a location serving food to the public under the guidelines of social distancing. Please allow the holder of the letter (or email recipient) to proceed to and from work in accordance with the CISA guidelines of essential workers.

Sincerely,

[Company president]

General essential business sample letter 

This team member works in an organization outlined as essential under CISA guidelines.

XZY Corporation provides <list goods, support or services> critical to maintaining infrastructure functions. Please allow the holder of the letter (or email recipient) to proceed to and from work in accordance with the CISA guidelines of essential workers.

Sincerely,

[Company president]

Other details for essential business letters

Many organizations include the employee’s work schedule as well as contact information for their direct supervisor or manager.

To assure employees are allowed to travel to and from work, many employers issue hard copies and ask staff members to keep a copy of the letter on hand as they commute.

Advise employees to download an email copy on their smartphones in the event the employee is stopped by officers enforcing shelter-in-place rules.

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