Employer Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Reports surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) have caused concern among employers and the general public. As of March 3, 2020, fewer than 90,000 people worldwide have been diagnosed with COVID-19 with slightly more than 100 in the United States. While those numbers are sure to rise, keep in mind that this flu season the USA alone has seen over 32 million people come down with the flu and over 18,000 of them have died. There is no telling if the coronavirus will reach or exceed those levels, but it currently has a long way to go. Much like the flu, we can all take positive steps to prepare.
HR Choice is recommending employers have a plan (to include communicating with employees) that protects your workforce from the coronavirus, while ensuring continuity of operations should your workplace be impacted. Please contact us for support in determining what measures you should take and for help developing a customized company-specific response/ business continuity plan in response to Coronavirus.
Items to consider in developing a response plan:
Plan to minimize exposure between employees and between employees and the public, if public health officials call for social distancing.
Establish a process to communicate information to employees and business partners on your infectious disease outbreak response plans and latest COVID-19 information. Anticipate employee fear, anxiety, rumors, and misinformation, and plan communications accordingly.
In some communities, early childhood programs and K-12 schools may be dismissed, particularly if COVID-19 worsens. Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick employees, those who stay home to care for sick family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children if dismissed from school. Businesses and other employers should prepare to institute flexible workplace and leave policies for these employees.
If there is evidence of a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., consider canceling non-essential business travel to additional countries per travel guidance on the CDC website.
Travel restrictions may be enacted by other countries which may limit the ability of employees to return home if they become sick while on travel status.
Consider cancelling large work-related meetings or events.
Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees. OSHA has more information on how to protect workers from potential exposures to COVID-19.
Review HR policies to make sure that policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and are consistent with existing state and federal workplace laws (for more information on employer responsibilities, visit the Department of Labor’s and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s websites).
Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies. For employees who are able to telework, supervisors should encourage employees to telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved. Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.
Identify essential business functions, essential jobs or roles, and critical elements within your supply chains (e.g., raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services/products, and logistics) required to maintain business operations. Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or these supply chains are interrupted.
Set up authorities, triggers, and procedures for activating and terminating the company’s infectious disease outbreak response plan, altering business operations (e.g., possibly changing or closing operations in affected areas), and transferring business knowledge to key employees. Work closely with your local health officials to identify these triggers.