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Follow Up: Preparing for Coronavirus in the Workplace

In a previous H&A Client Alert, we provided the initial steps employers could take to prepare for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) in the workplace. As the number of cases of COVID-19 steadily increases, we have compiled an action list to assist employers when preparing for the exposure of an infectious disease in their workplace.

Up to Date Policies and Procedures – Companies should ensure that their policies and procedures are up to date, and they have plans in place to efficiently respond to a COVID-19 exposure.

  • Review your company’s human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, work from home policy, and the pay and benefits available to employees to confirm they are up to date and in compliance with state and federal laws.
  • Review your company’s Injury and Illness Prevention Programs, which may include the company’s Emergency Action Protocol or Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan.
  • Review or adopt a procedure in the event an individual employee exhibits flu-like symptoms or falls ill.
  • Review or adopt a procedure in the event there is a company-wide quarantine.
  • Consider forming a committee to monitor updates and guidance from state and federal agencies, and to address employee concerns.

Continuity of Business – Companies should analyze their business operations and plan ahead to lessen the negative impact COVID-19 exposure may have.

  • Identify the essential business operations and staff necessary for the business to continue to function in the event of an outbreak, including payroll continuity.
  • Identify essential vendors, resources, and other businesses the company must interact with on a daily basis, and consider the available options in the event they are compromised or whether interaction with outside vendors can be limited.
  • Ensure that the company’s IT hardware and software, such as video conferencing tools and VPN software applications, are in working order, and employees know their login credentials and are familiar with how to use the technology.

Effective Communication – Effective communication can ease employee concerns, keep employees focused on work, and prevent disruptions to business operations.

  • Communicate to employees the policies, plans, and procedures the company will implement in the event of a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.
  • Create a plan for emergency communication in the event of a workplace exposure or quarantine, such as a telephone calling chain or call-in voice recording.
  • Begin implementing alternative methods for employee communication such Skype, Zoom, and other software applications that allow employees to collaborate remotely.
  • Inform employees how they are expected to communicate with customers and vendors in the event of a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.

Promote Hygiene Protocols – Companies should urge their employees to abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended precautions to limit an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace.

  • Encourage employees to take the recommended precautions to protect themselves and consider what day-to-day practices they can adjust, such as social distancing, minimizing face-to-face meetings and increasing the amount of online conferences or messaging, avoiding unnecessary travel, and avoiding shaking hands.
  • Consider providing hand sanitizers to employees, placing hand sanitizing stations throughout the workplace, or providing disinfecting cleaning supplies for employees to use in the workplace.

Please contact us for assistance with implementing any of the abovementioned action items and for practical solutions to prepare for a possible workplace exposure. For additional helpful information, we recommend that employers visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website available here.