The coronavirus affects everyone on the planet to some degree. It is a respiratory virus that is more deadly than the common flu. Even though the death rate is only 2.3% so far, it is still a disease that can spread quickly and cause people to suffer some very uncomfortable and painful symptoms.
Numerous businesses have been forced to shut down temporarily due to the virus, which means millions of people are out of work. This is supposed to help slow down the spread of the virus. For the businesses that remain active, employers must be vigilant when it comes to maintaining the health and safety of their employees.
The federal, state, and local government officials all seem to agree that social distancing is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. As an employer, this would mean keeping each employee about six feet away from each other. That way, if someone coughs or sneezes, other employees won’t be close enough to inhale their mucus bubbles and become infected with the virus.
Follow the Federal Laws
Employers are allowed to implement their own precautions in the workplace to protect their employees against the virus. Many employers already take precautions to reduce the risk of flu transmission, so these new precautions would be something similar.
You are still expected to obey all the federal laws pertaining to discrimination and civil rights. For instance, you cannot isolate a Chinese American employee from the rest of your employees just because the coronavirus comes from China. If the employee does not have the virus and you isolate them and no one else, then that is a form of discrimination. You can get into legal trouble for that.
In fact, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are not allowed to ask their employees about a particular illness they may have if it does not directly affect their job performance. If an employee gets tested for the coronavirus and their test comes back positive, then that employee must submit that information to you voluntarily. Once they do, you have an obligation to keep their positive diagnosis confidential.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that gives employees job protection if they suffer from a serious medical condition. The coronavirus would certainly qualify as a serious medical condition. So, if an employee informs you that they have a positive diagnosis of the coronavirus, then you must give them unpaid leave until they get better.
Supervising Your Employees
As an employer, your objective is to keep your employees as healthy as possible. Some work environments require employees to be close to each other, so it will be a challenge to manage social distancing in these circumstances. Just do the best you can.
Here are four tips to help you keep your employees safe from the coronavirus.
1) Emphasize Self-Care Practices
It never hurts to go over some standard self-care practices for you and your employees to follow. These practices include washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, and covering your mouth with your arm when you sneeze or cough. A few simple practices like these could prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace.
2) Work from Home if Possible
If the jobs of your employees can be done from home, then you should allow your employees to work from home. For instance, anyone who works in an office environment can probably do their jobs from home, especially if a computer, phone, and printer are the only things needed.
If it is not possible to work from home, then tell your employees to practice social distancing. No one should be touching or shaking hands with each other. Maintain the 6-foot distance between employees at all times.
3) Provide Testing Information
Your employees may have questions and concerns about how to get tested for the coronavirus. Please provide whatever information you can to them about this. Your local government officials should offer guidelines on how to qualify for a coronavirus test. For instance, some guidelines state that someone has to be feverish and running a high temperature for more than three days before they qualify to get tested.
4) Keep Workplace Extra Clean
Janitors and maintenance workers should get some overtime during this healthcare crisis. You’ll want to keep your work environment as clean and sanitary as possible. Have your cleaning people spray and disinfect all the furniture and tools in the work environment after they’re done being used for the day. Air and floor disinfecting may also be warranted as well.
There is no telling when the coronavirus phenomenon will end. Employers and businesspeople are sure going to feel the economic effects of the coronavirus for quite some time. Perhaps this is a time of reflection regarding what is most important in this world. Do we value human life over the economy or the economy over human life?
Some people believe you can still preserve both during these uncertain times. If you follow the advice laid out above, then maybe you can still keep your business afloat until this global crisis ends. Just remember to keep everyone safe first, and then worry about how to keep your business active.