When employees contract coronavirus: steps to keep your business safe
Businesses that continue to operate during the coronavirus pandemic may have taken nearly every precaution.
But with COVID-19 still spreading, an employee may become infected despite your best efforts to flatten the curve.
If any of your workers test positive for the virus, let these steps guide your response.
Require infected employees to stay at home
Employees who test positive for the coronavirus may have had severe symptoms that prompted them to seek medical care. Or they may have no symptoms at all and received a test for other reasons.
In either case, don’t allow infected individuals to interact with other employees or customers.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that Americans who test positive should quarantine for at least 14 days, even if they don’t feel sick.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires businesses with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19-positive workers for quarantine.
This benefit lasts until the end of 2020, but it may not apply to infected employees who are well enough to telecommute.
As you take these initial steps, be sure to immediately report the case to your local health department, as well as other staff members.
Notify employees that a colleague has tested positive
As a business owner, you must inform employees that they have been in close contact with a coronavirus-positive worker. Federal laws prohibit you from revealing the infected employee’s identity to other workers.
The CDC advises that employees and customers who have recently been in contact with a COVID-19-positive individual also quarantine for two weeks.
In such cases, staff members will likely express concern about their own health and request testing information.
Offer employees resources for COVID-19 testing
The CDC recommends contacting a preferred medical provider or state and local health departments if workers need COVID-19 tests.
At the time of this publishing, shortages and delays of test kits remain. As a result, this service may not be available in your area.
Authorities in some regions are prioritizing tests for those who need them most. Let your employees know this includes:
- healthcare workers
- first responders
- older Americans
- people with pre-existing medical conditions
- those who have recently traveled to outbreak hot spots
Employees who tested negative before could still contract the coronavirus in the future. Encourage everyone to consider testing, and help in any way you can.
Sanitize and deep clean your office
If an employee tests positive, deep cleaning your office is a must.
Businesses should follow the CDC’s guidelines by sanitizing and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as:
- countertops, desks, door knobs, and faucet handles
- computer keyboards, phones, tablets, and touch screens
- less obvious devices such as remote controls and ATMs
A clean workplace will help employees feel safer as they return to the office.
Ensure the sick employees’ duties are covered
Cross-training and business continuity plans have become more important than ever. But even the best-laid contingency plans may not work as planned during a pandemic.
If your healthy employees can’t cover the workload of their infected or quarantined colleagues, you may have to explore new options.
Depending on your business, contractors and freelancers could help. Companies like TaskRabbit, UpWork, Fiverr, and Toptal let you choose workers for one-time, recurring, or full-time jobs.
Even with a different labor force, your business can be held liable for the actions of these workers. Depending on your industry, you might require that temporary employees carry general liability, professional liability, commercial auto insurance, or other business policies.
Contact your insurance provider to learn about your options and possibly file a claim
Workers’ compensation insurance may cover lost wages and medical bills for employees who test positive. This coverage may also pay for lawsuit costs if an infected worker sues you for negligence.
Employees who file a workers’ comp claim must prove that they were infected while performing essential job duties in the office or remotely.
As far as lost productivity is concerned, business interruption insurance typically won’t cover your company’s losses if employees can’t work due to COVID-19.
The current pandemic will have a lasting impact on how businesses protect themselves going forward. And insurance will always play an important part in that.
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