All employers, regardless of size, should prepare for the impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace. In addition to considering how current events might affect their leave policies, employers also need to consider the impact of employment laws, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Keep reading for some best practices to help your business prepare for coronavirus.
Encourage sick employees to stay home. The Centers for Disease Control lists the following recommended strategies for employers:
- Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F or greater), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours.
- If someone is sneezing or coughing, you can send them home. But remember, taking someone’s temperature could be considered a medical examination within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act. At this point it’s not recommended that employers screen employees for fever. If a pandemic has reached a community, as assessed by health authorities or the CDC, employers may measure employees’ temperatures without violating the ADA, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance states.
- Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and that employees are aware of these policies. Policies should require that employees notify their supervisor if they are sick and staying home.
Encourage good respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees:
- Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers have a general duty to maintain a safe workplace. In line with OSHA’s requirement, employers should encourage employees to stay home when sick, remind employees about proper cough and sneeze etiquette, and instruct employees on clean hand hygiene.
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
- Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace.
Prepare for Employee Absenteeism
- Employers should consider allowing for more flexible leave policies that allow employees to stay home to care for themselves or to care for sick family members or minors if schools close in the community.
- For employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (50 or more employees within 75 miles), COVID-19 will likely be considered a serious health condition so a covered employee with COVID-19 or an employee who is taking care of a qualifying family member with COVID-19 may be permitted to take FMLA leave.
- Cross train employees to perform essential functions so that the business can continue to operate even if key staff members are absent.
- Consider whether telecommuting or remote work might be options for employees.
Employers should closely monitor CDC guidance and can contact the NFIB Small Business Legal Center with questions at 800-NFIB-NOW.