To date, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has spread throughout China and is now in 60 other international locations. In the U.S., 43 cases have been diagnosed in 10 states. While the situation is still in its early stages, it's important to have a plan in place to prevent potential workplace exposure, as well as a strategy in the event the outbreak becomes more widespread.
Here are a few key steps to protect your employees and your business.
Review your company sick leave policies. Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
In addition, make sure there are provisions in place that allow employees to stay home to care for a sick family member.
Encourage sick employees to stay home. There is much we still do not know about the virus. Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should remain home until they are free of fever for at least 24 hours. Do not require employees to validate their illness with a healthcare provider note. Physicians and medical facilities may be extremely busy and may not able to provide documentation.
Designate a separate space for a sick employee. Plan ahead and prepare an office or space to separate an employee who appears to have symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath, until an arrangement can be made for them to get home.
Review the ADA requirements for confidentiality. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform their employees but must maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Educate Employees on Prevention Strategies.Place posters and distribute information that encourages employees to stay home when sick, and educates employees about coughing and sneezing etiquette, as well as effective hand hygiene.
Make hygiene products convenient and available. Stock up on additional supplies of tissue, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95 percent alcohol, and add no-touch disposal receptacles.
Perform routine cleaning. Make sure that work surfaces are frequently cleaned, such as desks, workstations, and countertops. Provide disposable wipes to clean frequently used areas, like computer keyboards, stair rails, and doorknobs.
Review company travel policies. Check the CDC site for the latest guidance and recommendations for travel. If traveling outside the U.S., sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care.
Develop a response plan. All employers should be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from COVID-19 while still continuing day-to-day business.
Develop a plan that addresses different levels of severity and then review it with your employees to determine gaps and/or areas that need to be addressed.
Define messages and communication procedures. Businesses communicate with many different audiences. Employees will want to know about job security, benefits, and conducting work responsibilities. Customers will want to know about their orders. Suppliers will want to know about changes in delivery schedules. A company-wide plan should address audience-specific messages and different methods for delivering information.
A crisis can happen at any time. No business is immune to product recalls, natural disasters or an outbreak, such as COVID-19. But planning ahead ensures the safety of your employees and a smooth return to business.
For the latest updates and more information, visit www.cdc.gov.
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