As more and more employees return to their offices after many months away due to the COVID virus, it is essential to consider how it can be done safely.
Back in March 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance suggesting that employers may require testing of all employees regardless of whether they show symptoms of COVID-19, based on the fact that it poses a “direct threat” to the workforce. But whatever steps you decide to employ, legal counsel should be consulted. That’s because the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) adds a different level of requirements.
Ideally, you want your employees to speak up if they are feeling ill. Employers need to be understanding and make it clear that there are no negative repercussions for stepping forward. The last thing you want is to have employees showing up at work out of fear even if they may have the Coronavirus.
The leadership of your organization should review the CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers and the Resuming Business Toolkit as it provides excellent guidance on workplace issues that you might think about.
Also, employers need to think through situations where workers are not able to maintain six-foot separations.
During the early days of COVID, most companies relaxed a lot of their sick-leave policies. Now that the virus has been with us longer than many had imagined, you might need permanent policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisals. Workers then need to be informed of the new standards.
Some larger organizations are implementing some form of self-screening that happens before an employee even leaves their house. An organization that I do business with, requires staff to complete an online questionnaire before you can go to the office. You could also have on-site screening that includes taking a worker’s temperature and asking if they have symptoms.
If a manager notices that a worker has symptoms of a COVID infection, that person should be told to go home and suggest that they seek treatment. A doctor’s report can be required before that person is allowed to return work.
In addition to consulting with legal counsel, employers should also familiarize themselves with the latest information on the website of the Centers for Disease Control as the advice is likely to change over time.