With no signs of slowing down, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, presents a potentially serious risk to the safety and welfare of employees and the financial health of companies. Employers must be prepared to address COVID-19 related issues in the workplace without violating employees’ rights and without causing unnecessary confusion.
What Should Employers Do to Protect Their Workforce?
There is no known vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, and thus the best way to protect the workplace is to avoid exposure to the virus. Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations, employers should:
- Encourage employees to cleanse their hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water or with an alcohol-based rub, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth, and cover their coughs or sneezes with a tissue.
- Review cleaning operations to ensure frequently touched surfaces are disinfected regularly.
- Encourage employees to avoid contact with sick people and to stay home if they are sick.
Personal protective equipment is a must for healthcare workers, however, it is not likely necessary for employees who are well, according to the CDC. If an employer receives a request from an employee to wear masks or gloves, employers should consider the requests with three issues in mind: whether the employee (1) has traveled to or from an area where COVID-19 is prevalent; (2) is exhibiting symptoms of the virus or has an underlying health condition; or (3) has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. The employer may also consider directing such employee not to report to work for a period of at least 14 days or longer, based on current CDC advice.