The law firm of Dickinson Wright offers basic tips for employers about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Read more below or see the original post here. (Republished with permission, with updates from the CDC noted below).
It is now impossible to avoid the reality that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19, the “coronavirus”), is a “public health emergency of international concern,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although the risk assessment is currently considered low for most residents, the widespread transmission of the coronavirus in the U.S. “would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time” which could result in significant adverse consequences, including disruption of the American workforce.
When this post was initially published, COVID-19 was not spreading in United States communities but, since that time, community spread was reported in the states of Washington, California and Oregon in the northwest U.S., where six people have died from COVID-19 complications.
Specific guidance given by the CDC and OSHA
The CDC has developed interim guidance specifically for businesses and employers to reduce transmission and prepare for potential consequences related to the spread of the coronavirus. Employers are encouraged to study the most up-to-date CDC guidance for businesses and employers available on the CDC's website.
Recommended corporate actions include the following:
- Actively encourage sick employees or employees with sick family members to stay home. Encourage telecommuting when possible;
- Isolate and/or send home employees who are sick or who become sick during the workday;
- Educate employees on coronavirus risk assessments and encourage sick employees to seek medical care;
- Ensure sick leave policies are flexible, consistent with federal, state and local laws and consistent with public health guidance and understand that you may have to make exceptions for unique situations;
- Provide awareness of sick leave policies to employees immediately and often;
- Educate employees on respiratory etiquette (cough and sneeze cover) and hand hygiene;
- Perform routine environmental cleaning and provide disposable wipes for employee cleaning use during the day;
- Discourage travel to China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and cruise ship travel in Asia. This list could expand. Stay up to date on travel restrictions from the CDC.
- Be prepared to cancel all non-essential business travel and all non-essential large work-related meetings or events;
- Identify essential business functions, jobs or roles, and elements within your supply chains required to maintain business operations. Plan for how your business will operate if there is increasing absenteeism or supply chains are interrupted; and
- Create (or refresh) an infectious disease outbreak response plan in writing now, recognizing that the plan’s scope and procedures may vary depending on unique business operations and needs.
Under OSHA, employers have a duty to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”7 The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also set up a website to help employers prepare for a potential coronavirus outbreak. Developing a plan to address a potential coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. now may help to keep employees healthy, alleviate public concern, and reduce corporate liability.
Coronavirus situation developing quickly, so check online
The coronavirus situation is developing quickly. For the most up to date information concerning the coronavirus, refer to the CDC’s coronavirus webpage and the OSHA website. The CDC also has posters that can be downloaded, printed and posted in the workplace.
Here are a few samples:
Dickinson Wright PLLC and the HR professionals at BNC Services are ready to assist employers in addressing a coronavirus outbreak and developing policies surrounding it. Please contact us for assistance.