Coronavirus at Work: Be Prepared
February 27, 2020 | Lizanne Foley
Just a few weeks ago, the coronavirus seemed exotic and far away. Now the arrival of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is not an issue of if but when. Beyond having an ample supply of hand sanitizer and keyboard wipes (masks are sold out), how can employers best handle an outbreak or avoid one at their workplace?
First and foremost, the CDC offers excellent guidance and their website is updated constantly. We recommend employers check this resource frequently –and call us with any questions.
- Think about remote work possibilities wherever possible now. There may be days–or weeks– when keeping workers apart will spare a bigger outbreak overall.
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. The virus is upper respiratory–which is why it is so contagious. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends employees stay out until until they are fever free for 24 hours without use of fever reducing medicines.
- Separate sick employees who do come to work and send them home immediately.
- Consider suspending the need for a healthcare provider note if that is your policy as medical facilities are expected to be overtaxed and reserved for the very sick.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette–sneezing and coughing into a tissue or your elbow in a pinch–and regular hand washing hygiene. The CDC provides posters on hand-washing and a clear explanation of respiratory etiquette to share.
- Keep the workplace clean, especially door knobs and frequently touched surfaces, and encourage employees to wipe down keyboards, phones and their work area.
- If your employees travel for work, check the CDC travel webpage for updates.
- Make determinations of risk based on an employee’s race or country of origin.
- Breach confidentiality of employees with confirmed coronavirus infection.
- Penalize employees for using sick time themselves or to care for a sick (and contagious) member of their household.
The good news so far is the virus is not expected to be fatal except in the elderly, very young and people with lowered immune systems. The bad news is coronavirus is highly contagious and will most likely be wide spread in short order.
We can help.
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