Many people are feeling overwhelmed by the deluge of information regarding COVID-19, the disease that develops in some people through exposure to the novel coronavirus that is being seen around the world.
Although information is constantly changing, we are monitoring alerts and updates from the Centers for Disease Control, and will continue to update to you regarding significant changes as related to the workplace.
We find this link from the CDC to be helpful: CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers
Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and the workplace
Can a company make changes to employee work schedules in response to COVID-19?
Employers can make adjustments to employee work schedules as they deem necessary due to changing business needs. Try to give as much advanced notice as possible, which is always appreciated by employees and their supervisors.
If an employee wants to wear a respirator or medical mask at work, can an employer prohibit them from doing so?
An employer can prohibit an employee from doing so but should evaluate the employee’s risk exposure as well as taking into consideration the reasons the employee may feel the need to do so.
Can I send an employee home if he or she is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms?
Employers may choose to send sick employees home whether they are exhibiting the symptoms of flu, cold, presumed COVID-19, or other contagious illnesses. It is important for employers who do this to be consistent in the application and assessment of that criteria. Employees should also understand the expectation of when to return to work and whether they will be paid while they are away from work.
Must an employer permit an uninfected employee to work from home without consequence?
The decision to allow an employee to work from home lies strictly with the employer.
If an employee is diagnosed as having COVID-19, what information can be shared with other employees?
It would be appropriate to let your employees know that an employee has been diagnosed and whether or not they may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Individuals should not be identified by name.
Are healthy employees who are idled as a result of concerns about COVID eligible for unemployment compensation?
Possibly. The unemployment agency makes the determination of eligibility for benefits and under what circumstances. To be eligible for unemployment benefits, an individual must be seeking work.
Can an employee refuse to come in to work because they are afraid of infection?
Some employees may feel the need to call in and not come to work based on personal health conditions, or fear of virus exposure. Employers can apply their current attendance policies to these absences, but may want to temporarily modify their absence or sick time policies based on the circumstances. As always, consistent application for all employees is key.
Can we prohibit an employee from personal travel?
While you can’t prohibit an employee from traveling during their own personal time, you can prohibit them from returning to the workplace if they have traveled to a high-exposure destination. Following CDC guidance would be a good idea under these circumstances.
Takeaways about the coronavirus and COVID-19
First of all: Don’t panic! Consider these basic tips as you deal with this situation in your individual business:
• Encourage sick employees to stay at home
• Send sick employees home if they report to work
• Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection
o Make antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer readily available
o Post information on good hand washing habits
• Encourage employees to take personal responsibility by self-reporting illness, advising the employer of travel plans, or contact with others that may have increased their exposure.
As always, if we can assist you at BCN Services, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Sue Kester, HR Manager