The global health crisis created by the explosion of Coronavirus cases is requiring employers to navigate uncharted waters. Circumstances are changing daily, and employers must be agile in responding. For now, here are some key tips:
Send sick employees home: The virus is thought to spread between people who are in close contact with one another, generally within six feet, and through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. If employees display any symptoms of acute respiratory illness – cough, fever, or shortness of breath – send them home. Meanwhile, all employees should use proper coughing and sneezing etiquette, covering the nose and mouth with at least a tissue or using an elbow to avoid spreading droplets.
Encourage employees to communicate: Employees who are well but have a family member at home who may have been exposed to the virus, or just to the flu, should be advised to notify HR or their supervisor. HR should communicate with the employee, the healthcare provider, and local health authorities to determine whether the employee who has been exposed can safely return to work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration imposes on employers a duty to provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
Encourage hand hygiene: Encourage employees to wash their hands often with soap and water and avoid touching their faces. Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds and always after touching common surfaces like doorknobs and keypads and before eating. If soap and water is not readily available, encourage employees to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
Keep work areas clean: The CDC says that no additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is required at this time, but you may want to do more. At a minimum, ensure that common areas and frequently touched surfaces are regularly cleaned in accordance with the cleaning products’ directions. Consider providing disposable wipes near doorknobs and keypads.
Limit non-essential travel out of state in question except as absolutory necessary: Do not send people outside the 48 contiguous states if at all possible. If employees must travel, again employers should first consult the CDC Travelers’ Health website.
Pay attention to federal, state, and local leave laws: If an employee or his or her family member is infected with COVID-19, the employee could be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or a myriad of other state and local leave laws. State workers compensation laws might also come into play.