Much is unknown about how the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads, but following best practice guidelines for dealing with infectious diseases is the first step toward protecting your workforce.
Below are guidelines on how to plan and respond to COVID-19 from the CDC, along with an HR-specific FAQ on how to handle infectious disease outbreaks, and how to create a plan to protect employees who may be exposed to disease at work.
While protecting your office, be sure to remain vigilant on compliance and liability concerns. Employers must prevent stigma and unlawful discrimination by taking into account the ADA and the FLSA. Never make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin, and be sure to maintain confidentiality of people with confirmed COVID-19.
Actively encourage sick employees to stay home
- Ensure sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance
- Do not require a healthcare provider’s note to validate their illness or return to work, as healthcare offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation
- Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member
When possible, set up remote working arrangements to accommodate those who’ve been instructed to isolate at home
Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene
Perform routine environmental cleaning
Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps:
- Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
CDC Guidance for Businesses and Employers
Click “Read More” below for guidelines on how to plan and respond to COVID-19 from the CDC, created especially for businesses and employers. The University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy has also provided a short guide for use by employers, which is available here.
How to Handle an Infectious Disease Outbreak
When an outbreak happens, it’s important to communicate accurate information about a disease’s risk, measures being taken to mitigate those risks, and how your existing policies apply to the current situation. These FAQs can help provide guidance.