A lot of companies are trying to find their footing right now. Most likely, you are already reinforcing your business plan, building your team, and arranging the remote working situation. But what will you do if an employee in your company tested positive for or is presumed to have COVID-19?
An employee who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus has the potential to turn your business upside down. So what is the right thing to do if you find yourself in that position as an employer? Here are several recommendations to consider for how you can approach this kind of situation, whether employees will continue going to their workplace or work from home.
Express Your Sympathy
If an employee brings you the news, show your sympathy. Whether their symptoms are mild or not, they are certainly anxious about what might happen and the likelihood of them spreading the virus to their family or coworkers. So let them share with you their feelings. As you talk to them, understandably communicate that they can count on you and fellow workmates should be supportive. Tell them that you are aware and they don’t need to worry that may not be able to work for a little while or that their productivity may go down.
Connect With Your HR Partner
These situations need to have complete HR support. You must ack quickly to reduce the risk of the disease spreading. Most HR departments this time should have some protocols in place, and you will want to use their support and guidance.
You must ask the employee which coworkers they have been in “close contact” with within the prior two weeks. You should tell everyone who was possibly exposed to the positive employee at work without revealing that employee’s identity. After this, decide whether the HR partner or you should connect with any close contacts the employee has had. It’s more advisable to alert the coworkers by video or phone because it’s a sensitive topic.
Instruct the Positive Employee to Stay Home
The employee should be instructed to stay home for the length of the period of time suggested by his or her health care provider or the applicable health department at least 3 days have passed since the verdict of fever without the usage of medications that reduces fever and improvement in respiratory symptoms at least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
Employers are required to keep the privacy of any health data they gather connected to an employee’s medical condition or their symptoms, and any such documentation should be kept in a private health folder, separate from the employee’s personnel data that can only be accessed by critical human resource staff.
Co-Workers Should Self-Isolate
Co-workers who shared a workspace with the employee who was tested positive should also inform the people they have been in recent contact with that they have a colleague who has been diagnosed with the virus. These co-workers should be out of the office for at least 14 days since the last contact with the positive employee and to work at home for the meanwhile, if possible. Make sure to encourage these workers to self-isolate and ask for all medical care and testing that they feel may be appropriate.
If the matter is very serious, consider shutting down those areas of the workplace determined by the infected employee as areas that he or she used until those areas can be cleaned in accordance with the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Wage and Hours Issues
You need to consider the wage and hour issues, including mandatory paid sick leave, noting that the infected employee and close contacts are not able to work remotely and communicate the pay policies to employees.
Employers together with the HR department should take steps immediately in response to an employee who reports a positive test or a presumption of COVID-19. Employers must be flexible and efficient when it comes to maintaining a safer workplace and allow the focus to be on the work of the company moving forward.