Amid the startling developments with the coronavirus (aka COVID-19) this week, it’s time for all employers to immediately implement written policies to deal with it in their workplaces. Content will vary depending on workforce make-up and the industry involved, but the need for a policy to keep employees informed and help them feel supported will not. Without one, employers increase the risk of spreading the virus on the job and of leaving their healthy employees too worried to perform work effectively.
A policy’s primary goal should be to communicate company support to all its workers and their families as a way to continue operations as normally as possible under difficult conditions. Employees should be told to stay home if they or their family members exhibit symptoms of coronavirus – coughing, fever or shortness of breath, e.g. Employers should consider extending sick leave benefits so that workers don’t need to worry about losing pay lest they ignore signs of the virus and appear at work based on financial necessity. Travel should be restricted whenever possible, as should customer visits to worksites. Visitors who do appear should be both limited and screened at front entrances. And employees should be counseled on the latest medical guidance for reducing disease transmission – hand washing, keeping safe distances from others, avoiding group interactions, and the like.
Employers need to follow up on coronavirus policies by closely monitoring medical and governmental developments and advice. As more or varying information becomes available, policies should be amended. In all cases, employers should err on the side of providing too many updates rather than too few. Depending how things develop and based on the best and most current information, workplace closings, work-at-home policies, or the lifting of restrictions altogether should be considered.