Boyden Executive Search

Boyden's Alicia K. Hasell joins a range of experts to share important best practices for today's employers. 

By Carolyn M. Proctor, Business Journal

ILLUSTRATION BY  STEPHANIE REDDING / WBJ;  GETTY IMAGES

This article was originally published by Silicon Valley Business Journal. Click here to view the original article.

What should you do if one of your employees has COVID-19? And how would you even find that out in the first place? We sought the answers to these questions — top of mind for any employer today — from legal, human resources and crisis communications experts, along with the latest health authority guidance, to learn the best practices should a person on your payroll test positive for the novel coronavirus.

 


What You Should Do...

First and foremost, this is a global health emergency, and everyone’s safety must be the highest concern, including for employers. The CDC has posted its interim guidelines online, routinely updating them. The agency recommends employers take these steps if they find that an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Legally

Take An Employee's Temperature

And we mean that literally. The EEOC allows you to get thermometer readings given the potential direct threat to others who could be exposed to the virus. But “treat this like a real medical test,” Cromwell said. Go to a private room to take someone’s temperature and keep results completely confidential in that employee’s medical file.

Ask About Related Symptoms

If someone appears ill or says they’re sick, you can ask, “Do you have a fever?” “Are you experiencing shortness of breath?” If anyone in the workplace is having any symptoms related to COVID-19, they should be sent home immediately at the very first signs. Again, any records about this employee’s health must be kept confidential.

Quarantine Employees With Potential Exposure From The Workplace

You can’t force anyone to stay inside their homes. But you can tell them they can’t come to the workplace for at least 14 days if they traveled to a high-risk area or came into contact with someone who was sick.

Create A Mandatory Work-From-Home Policy

Don’t have anyone come into the office if they don’t need to. If a small group must report to your office, Cromwell suggests closing off break rooms to discourage people from congregating and spacing out cubicles or other workspaces more than usual.

Screen New Hires For Symptoms of COVID-19

This is permissible only after you make a conditional job offer, so long as it’s done for all candidates. The CDC permits employers to withdraw a job offer if the person either has a positive diagnosis or currently is showing symptoms of the virus.

Inform Certain Clients or Partners of The Diagnosed Person

This may not always be possible, but if the diagnosed person met one-on-one or up-close with specific, easily identifiable people, then they should be notified. Again, you cannot name the diagnosed person, but you can tell those clients and others they “may have come into contact with an employee infected with the virus.”

Inform Coworkers of Potential Exposure

You can’t ever identify a diagnosed person, per ADA law. But you should inform those who worked directly with that person that they may have been exposed and should self-isolate. If they learn that elsewhere, you may lose their trust and heighten fears.

Medically

Make Sick Employees Self-Isolate at Home Immediately

Make Sick Employees Self-Isolate At Home Immediately — and don’t punish them for it in any way. Employees must notify a supervisor if they have a fever and cough or shortness of breath, then opt to stay at home. Per CDC guidelines, the same goes for employees with a sick family member at home. Any employers that don’t currently offer sick leave should create a nonpunitive "emergency sick leave” policy now.

Disinfect All Affected Work Areas

After a diagnosed or sick employee goes home, isolate their work area for as long as possible — 24 hours or, preferably, longer. Then clean it thoroughly, first with detergent or soap and water, and then with a bleach or alcohol solution, while wearing protective disposable gloves. Wash hands immediately after removing the gloves.

Inform The Infected Worker's Fellow Employees

...about their possible exposure, following ADA compliance. That’s a legal and medical mandate.

Do Not Require Doctor's Notes or Test Results

Health care providers may be too overwhelmed to provide either of these in a timely manner right now.

 


By The Numbers

National law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP surveyed more than 550 clients about their COVID-19 response as of March 16. Here’s what the respondents said:

85% were encouraging employees to work from home
70% still required doctor’s notes to return to work, despite CDC guidelines
65% were allowing employees to work from home who couldn’t before

Benefits:

The Mask:

 


The Communication Plan

An employer’s response must adhere to more than the law, of course. Overcommunication is key in a crisis situation. And the topmost message must be that the health and safety of staff, partners and clients are of highest concern, said Elizabeth Cholis, managing director at FTI Consulting’s crisis communications practice in D.C. Alicia Hasell, managing partner at executive search and leadership consulting firm Boyden in Houston, agrees. “Make sure that everyone is getting the same message, that we as the employer have their best interest at heart,” she said. Here’s what else they suggest.

 


Uh-Oh, Not Feeling Well?

If you start to come down with typical COVID-19 symptoms — a fever and dry cough or shortness of breath — then firstly, don’t panic. Most who have the virus are able to recover at home. Take these next steps, as per CDC guidelines.

 


When Can You Go Back To work?

 

For more guidance, talk to your physician and local health departments.
The CDC also regularly updates COVID-19 information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/

 

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