As the Coronavirus spreads and the news about the virus changes on an hourly basis, it is a struggle for employers to know how to respond. The situation is constantly evolving and a policy adopted today may need revision tomorrow based on new developments. Employers should check with local health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for updates. Against this constantly changing background, here are some of the policies/procedures that employers are adopting:
- Elimination or restriction of travel to affected areas (based on CDC risk assessment by country: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html)
- Requiring returning employees to comply with all screening conducted by governmental authorities
- Requiring employees returning from affected areas to work from home for 14 days after returning from travel
- Requiring employees who live with an infected family member to work from home for 14 days
- Restricting employees who return from travel to affected areas with symptoms from coming to work until symptoms disappear and they are cleared by a doctor
- Providing leave in accordance with policies, applicable law and/or adopting more generous paid leave policies to encourage sick employees (regardless of the reason for sickness) to stay home
- Requiring employees who test positive to comply with any quarantine requirements and providing leave (even if symptoms do not rise to the level of a “serious health condition”)
Employers also need to prepare for the possibility that an employee will be diagnosed after coming to work. In this situation, employers need to have a plan that addresses:
- Notice to employees including information about symptoms, testing, whether employer will pay for testing, and leave for other employees
- Disinfection of the workplace and workplace closures
- Pay (or not) while the workplace is closed
- Remote work options
Many employers are also circulating CDC guidance for employees to avoid infection:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when sick.
- Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
More information is here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Employers should also be prepared to provide sick leave and/or OFLA/FMLA (or Washington Paid Family Medical Leave) to employees who need time off to care for an infected family member.
We will continue to post on developments.