COVID-19 has forced some businesses into a complete halt, save for those who work remotely. Airlines and stock markets along with many other industries are reporting losses in the absence of sufficient cash flow to keep afloat. Staff layoffs seem more imminent than ever and employers are at a loss of what to do about the crisis. However, there are steps and precautions that employers can take to keep things in check and stay afloat.
What Employers Should Tell Employees
Transparency is essential when communicating with employees about plans for addressing issues arising from COVID-19.
Employees should inform employers about symptoms, provide access to resources from certified public health institutions and give employees the option to work from home and seek medical help if they present any of the symptoms.
We will discuss some of the conversations employers should have with their employees about COVID-19. These range from switching to full remote mode, maintaining social distancing to issuing paid sick leave.
1. Switch to Full Remote Mode
Until now, it was thought that most roles had to be carried out on site and in the physical work place. Today, business owners are asking those who can work from home to do so. As the virus spreads through human contact and air droplets, chances of transmission are reduced when employees work from home.
A study by Business2Community shows that employees who work remotely are more productive than their on-site counterparts. This is due to reduced distractions, such as small talk and the freedom to take regular mental breaks when exhausted.
2. Maintain Social Distancing
Six feet apart is the advised amount of space to be maintained between individuals in gatherings. Various countries have even upped the ante and banned gatherings of no more than two people. For essential services that still run such as pharmaceuticals, it is strongly advised that employers ensure that staff adhere strictly to such precautions.
Staff who have to work must also be advised by employers on how to deal safely with customers to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must also be supplied to staff by employees.
3. Contact Healthcare Services
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) office in each country has emergency hotlines for employers to call in case of a suspected case at their workplace. Call and brief them with all necessary details needed for immediate response.
4. The Issue of Paid Leave
Under California paid sick leave laws, employees who have paid sick leave available must be provided such leave and compensated by employers. Paid sick leave can be used for absences due to illness, diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing health condition or preventative care for the employee or the employee’s family member.
Preventative care can include self-quarantine as a result of potential exposure to COVID-19. In this instance, an employee may exercise their right to take a paid leave. On the other hand, employers can grant employees sick leave for preventative care.
If an employee has exhausted their sick leave or does not qualify for sick leave, other leave options may be available. An employee may choose to take vacation or paid time off policy and be compensated if the terms for the leave option allows for leave in the circumstances surrounding the pandemic.
5. Requesting Travel Reports
Employers can request that employees inform them if they are planning to or have travelled to countries considered to be high-risk by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, employees have a right to medical privacy and are not obligated to provide employers with private medical information.
6. Reporting Time
In a state of emergency, reporting time will typically apply unless recommendations to cease operations are given.
7. Discrimination Issues
Employers have a duty to protect their employees from discriminatory or retaliatory behavior by other employees if they are suspected to have COVID-19, or belong to a race perceived to be affiliated with the spread or start of COVID-19. Where COVID-19-related rumors directed at ethnicities arise, employers should consult their company anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and address conduct that violates such policies.
In times like these, employers should make it top priority to keep themselves updated on laws and policies guiding employee-employer relationships. In the instance where a closure or major layoff has to occur, employers can get help through the California Rapid Response program. Teams from the program meet with you to provide on-site services to assist workers who will be laid off.
Finally, employees should remember to share advice, only from certified public health authorities like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) about handwashing, reporting of illness and reporting travel history. This is to curb the spread of false news that might create more panic than there is already.
Stay healthy, stay safe, stay home.