As concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus in the US grow, it is important to talk to your team about the importance of relying on trusted sources of information, like the CDC.
While the risk of infection in the U.S. remains low, the lack of information about this new virus, coupled with the unrelenting news coverage, can create anxiety and uneasiness for all of us.
One of the best things you can do to create a sense of safety early on is to make sure your team knows where to go to get trustworthy, up-to-date, and accurate information, and to think through what steps you can take as an employer to prevent infection, as well as prepare for it. Below is a list of steps you can take now.
Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene:
- Place posters that encourage cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
- Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizers (at least 60-95% alcohol) in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
- Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.
Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:
- Place posters that encourage staying home when sick at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
- Ensure that your sick leave/PTO policies are flexible and consistent with state sick leave laws, public health guidance, and that employees are aware of these policies.
- Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
- Consider temporarily waiving policies requiring a note from a healthcare provider to permit or return from absences.
- Consider establishing flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member.
- Consider allowing employees to work remotely when possible, and ensure the necessary equipment is provided in advance. See our Remote Work eBook for more info.
- CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
Perform routine environmental cleaning:
- Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, doorknobs, stair rails or elevator buttons. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
- Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
Train your management staff on how to handle inquiries and concerns:
- Ensure your managers are familiar with existing attendance, worksite and sick leave policies and have clear direction on how to handle changes to them due to periods of concern with communicable diseases.
- If possible, establish a point person or team to professionally handle communication and messaging to employees as the situation evolves.
- Educate your managers on their ability to send employees home, telling employees to stay home, or separating employees when they show symptoms that align with CDC recommendations.
- Refresh your managers on how to handle employee confidential medical information.
- Provide tools to your managers on how to answer questions regarding employee business travel safeguards.
Depending on your industry, such as healthcare or if you have employees overseas or who travel frequently, additional steps may be helpful or required. Additional resources with relevant info are:
As always, your Inspiring HR Consultant is available to assist you with navigating employee management decisions in light of this challenge.
This article does not constitute legal advice and there are subtle variations in employment law as it pertains to this topic, depending on where your business operates. It is strongly suggested that you seek consultation or legal counsel before making decisions about policies.