The pandemic that many people thought would only last a couple of months has made its way to the end of the year. Many businesses have become acquainted with a remote work culture, but others are delving back into their on-site business. Essential businesses, for example, have kept their worksites open all year.
You may know that if your worksite is open, you are required to have a written ‘Covid-19 Worksite Preparedness Plan’ in place. If you don’t already have one, here are some things you can consider to get you started. However, be sure to check your state and local regulations first on whether or not your business and/or office is allowed to reopen.
1. What are the daily safety protocols a business should instill and follow?
Per CDC’s guidance, it is best to start by inspecting the workplace for potential exposures to employees, such as evaluating work areas to ensure social distancing, and ensure that the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is being used. Providing training to employees on how to use all PPE is the best method in creating clear expectations of safety protocol. Ensuring that employees are also cleaning their work areas at the beginning and end of their shifts is also a necessary practice.
When reopening your business, it is best practice to bring in essential employees first and slowly adjust to bringing back certain positions, if completely necessary. For example, most administration roles could remain working remotely, while production floor employees come in and readjust to their roles.
Furthermore, employers can adopt the practice of conducting daily health-checks, whether they be in-person or virtually. Throughout this daily process, employers should not forget to practice confidentiality concerning all medical matters.
2. What do we do if an employee reports to work showing symptoms or tests positive for Covid-19?
If an employee reports to work showing symptoms, the employee should be separated from other employees and should return home until they are no longer feeling symptomatic. In this case, employers do not need to require that employees return Covid-19 testing results. Keep in mind that if you do require the employee to submit a Covid-19 test result as a condition of returning to work, you must pay for the test as well as the time the employee spent getting tested.
On the other hand, if an employee does test positive for Covid-19, the employer should close off the employee’s work area and wait a 24-hour time period before disinfecting the area. Employees should remain in isolation for 14 days, whether they are still showing symptoms or not. Lastly, employers should notify other employees of an exposure in the facility, while still maintaining confidentiality.
3. What are the sick leave laws we must abide by?
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) covers all employees by providing two weeks (80 hours) to those affected by the quarantine and are unable to work, or are actively experiencing Covid-19 symptoms. Employees are also covered under such benefits if they are unable to work due to caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed or unavailable.
Employees that have been employed for more than 30 days are further entitled to up to ten (10) weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave to continue caring for a child that is unable to attend school or daycare because it is closed or unavailable.
Note that FFCRA is a federal law, and you should check with your HR Consultant or employment attorney for any state-specific guidelines.
4. What are the proper steps to take once an employee returns to work, after recovering from Covid-19?
A previously infected employee should report to work only after following the 14-day isolation period. Upon an employee’s return, proper safety protocol should continue to be followed. This includes using the appropriate PPE and maintaining a clean work environment.