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Preparing your workplace for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The COVID-19 situation is evolving every day. With the uncertainty of what will happen next for our nation, businesses are looking for ways to address employees' concerns, keep their workforce healthy, and do their part in preparing for an uncertain tomorrow.

Remote Work Policies

Organizations across the country are enacting remote work policies to keep their employees safe. While this may not work for all businesses or even for all employees, having your workers telecommute is a great way to ensure that those who may be carriers of COVID-19 stay at home. The CDC has recommended that anyone who may have come in contact with someone with COVID-19 self-quarantine for 14 days. This applies to individuals who have traveled to high-risk areas as well.

Health Reminders

Now is the perfect time to send an email out to employees to remind them of a few easy steps they can all take to help keep everyone safe and healthy.

  • Wash your hands (soap and water) for at least the recommended 20 seconds.

  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

  • Don't touch your face.

  • Take time off if your sick (In your communication include your attendance and/or sick pay policy).

  • If you need to cough or sneeze do it in your sleeve. (This one rhymes. How cute.)

  • Avoid handshakes. You can make this into a fun activity. Ask your employees to come up with a fun or different way that they can greet each other that doesn't include handshakes or touching.

  • If the meeting should have been an email before - let's just send it as an email now.

Not an excuse to discriminate

COVID-19 does not give employers, coworkers, or others involved in your business permission to discriminate or harass anyone based on their nationality, race, ethnicity, or national origin. Discrimination can take many forms so keep a lookout for inappropriate jokes, sharing of memes or other images, and other comments that can be demeaning and hurtful.

Meetings and Travel

For many organizations, travel is an integral part of the business strategy. On 03/11/2020 Trump announced a travel ban from Europe. And the CDC has issued guidance on limiting travel during this time and has even created a risk assessment level tool to help individuals and businesses determine whether travel should be taken at this time.

Some business owners are switching to digital, video and or phone meetings instead of in-person gatherings. Consider what systems you have in place to support switching to digital meetings.

On 03/15/2020 the CDC issued guidance on meetings and suggest that all gatherings with 50 or more people be postponed for the next 8 weeks. This recommendation does NOT apply to schools, institutes of higher education, or businesses.

Medical Exams and Records

We've heard of a few companies requiring employees to stop and have their temperatures taken before entering their worksite. Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Americans with Disabilities Act, it is impermissible to conduct a medical exam unless the CDC designates the work site as a widespread zone/containment zone.

There are certain circumstances when employers may require medical screening if the employee is a direct threat and their health is job-related and a business necessity. This has been common for the senior living facilities businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19.

If an employee provides medical information to you, remember to keep the employee's medical information confidential. Documents should be stored separately from the employee's personnel file and only individuals who need to know the information should have access to it.

Employees Refusing to Work

Navigating a situation when an employee is refusing to work due to fear of the COVID-19, can be tricky to handle. In a nutshell, fear is not protected under the Family Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disability Act, etc. Of course, we want employees to feel safe and secure in their workplaces, so we should take the time to talk to them, find out what their concerns are, and work together to come up with a solution.

Family Medical Leave Act and Paid Time Off Policies

If your company falls under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations then we recommend taking a look at the recent guidelines from the Department of Labor (DOL) on how the FMLA may or may not impact decisions around medical leaves, caring for family members, and insurance continuation requirements.

Employees may need to take time off due to personal illness, illness of a family member, exposure to COVID-19 or because their children are out of school. Many employers are temporarily allowing employees to have a negative Paid Time Off balance. This allows employees to take additional time off, while allowing them to earn back the time as they continue their employment with you.

Other Policies to Consider

As you prepare your organization for various outcomes, we suggest revisiting (or creating) the following policies:

  • Paid Emergency Leave Policy - outline specific health and/or pandemic protocols.

  • Remote Work Policy

  • Paid (or unpaid) Sick Leave Policy

  • Attendance Policy

Colorado Employers

On March 12, 2020, the Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay Rules was put into effect. To learn more about how this requirement impacts your business check out our blog post Required Paid Sick Leave - Colorado Employers.

Preparing for the impact of COVID-19 means taking steps today to ensure that your business practices, policies, and procedures are ready for the uncertainty of tomorrow. Be proactive in your communication to your team, be factual, stay updated, and take the appropriate steps to keep you and your team safe and healthy.

Need help or have a specific question? We're here to help.

Contact us at (970) 818 - 5007 or admin@simplyHRpartners.com.