View questions related to:
- Employee exposure/employee safety
- Company policies – travel, testing, compensation, communication
- Return to work
- Disability and FMLA
Employee exposure / employee safety
What actions can employers take to protect their employees and visitors, at their job site?
Workers who come into the workplace to do essential activities should be protected as well as possible against potential infection. Potential actions include:
- Provide ready access to handwashing and hand sanitizer and bleach wipes
- Turn off "jet" hand dryers in bathrooms and provide paper towels
- Frequently disinfect shared surfaces. The CDC posts guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities.
- Exercise social distancing maximizing space between workers in line with guidance.
- Don’t convene any large group meetings; have small meetings in large rooms that allow social distancing. Consider using teleconferencing for meetings if social distancing is not possible in the office.
- Consider thermal scanning and questioning for risk factors at entrances to the workplace and bar from the workplace those with temperatures above 100.4F, fever, cough, myalgia (muscle pain), known exposure or pending COVID-19 test.
- Consider exclusion or very strict screening of visitors
- Offer sick leave and quarantine leave so that workers don’t feel pressured to come to work when they are sick or if they were exposed
If the workplace is open and someone at the workplace was diagnosed or presumed to have COVID-19:
- They should leave the premises immediately and self-quarantine for 14 days (View CDC guidelines)
- Follow CDC guidelines for deep cleaning of areas used by the infected employee or visitor
- Seek guidance and assistance from the local department of health
What are best practices when an employee reports exposure or displays symptoms of the virus?
Best practices with respect to employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are presumed positive include:
- Employees with a confirmed diagnosis should not go to work until they fully recover.
- Employees exposed to COVID-19 should not go to work for 14 days from their exposure. They should not be required to provide a doctor's note to be in self-quarantine.
- Employees who have had contact with or spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of a person who is diagnosed with COVID-19 (or who has presumptive COVID-19 based on symptoms) are at high risk and should not come to work until they have been free of symptoms for 14 days after the last high-risk exposure. (View CDC guidelines)
- An employer should not reveal the identity of an employee diagnosed with COVID-19. Employers are required to protect the privacy of employees regardless of COVID-19 and should be especially vigilant about privacy concerns during the pandemic.
In any instance of presumed exposure or confirmed infection, employers should arrange for deep cleaning of work areas per CDC guidelines.
View Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) and CDC for further guidance.
Should executives come into the office to show solidarity with employees who are unable to work from home?
Some workers may be more equipped to work remotely. Although this may feel “unfair,” working remotely helps protect others, including front-line, essential workers who must report to the workplace.
An executive who comes in to help with esprit d’ corps may end up endangering colleagues. Organizations should do all they can to maximize physical distance between workers and use all modalities — especially video to stay in close touch.
What are the trends in asking employees to work from home? What are employers doing for employees that cannot work from home?
Willis Towers Watson’s survey fielded February 19 to 26 on implications of COVID-19 for employers showed nearly half of respondents (46%) had increased flexibility for remote work. In North America, 51% of companies reported that 25% or more of their workforce was eligible for remote work prior to the COVID-19 outbreak compared to 70% of companies after the outbreak. For employees that cannot work from home:
- 22% of North America companies surveyed reported obtaining supplies of masks or other personal protective equipment
- 25% reported disinfecting worksites
- 44% increased access to hand sanitizers
- 56% enhanced communication about preventing the spread of respiratory disease
And, in a survey of premium pay practices, fielded March 23 to 24, 8% of employers responded that they are providing premium pay for employees that need to be physically present, with 8% more planning to do so.