Coronavirus What Should Employers Do?
We have been getting a lot of questions about how a business should respond to the coronavirus. We have some Risk Management guidance to help you manage coronavirus anxiety and risk at work. Remember our guidance shouldn’t take the place of any legal advice about your business.
Right now, the world is facing a global pandemic of COVID-19, also known as the 2019 novel coronavirus or just “the coronavirus.” While it’s not quite the 1918 Pandemic, increasing coronavirus anxiety has prompted much media attention and public concern.
CDC’s Link to Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Global Cases Dashboard: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html
COVID-19 Preparedness Document: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AixrIcLuBqYcgQn2Tk_xNsqK9HOr?e=MBgL32
Additional Resources From Our Partner Benefit Comply: https://benefitcomply.com/coronavirus/
SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management): https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/Pages/communicable-diseases.aspx
10-Minute General Awareness Training of COVID-19: https://content.verasuite.com/COVID-19GeneralAwareness/index.html#/
Department of Labor:
Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Expanded Family and Medical Leave Rights:
Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employer Expanded Family and Medical Leave Requirements:
Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers:
Information on Senate Omnibus CARES Act: https://www.steptoe.com/en/news-publications/senate-passes-omnibus-cares-act.html
P/C Insurance Industry Backs New Government Fund to Help Businesses, Workers Hurt by Coronavirus Shutdowns.
- The property/casualty insurance industry has joined a broad business coalition in supporting and crafting a new federal relief fund for businesses and workers affected by the quarantine and stay-at-home measures necessitated by the coronavirus crisis. Read the article here: https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2020/03/31/562890.htm
Something that can help mitigate people’s anxiety and fear can be a transparent task force planning the company’s response to the coronavirus. Whether it’s your business’s senior leadership, HR, and/or safety, gather representation from several departments to agree on how the organization should respond to employees, customers, and the public becoming sick.
Consider the following topics to include in a preparedness and response plan:
- Who can or can’t work from home? What resources are needed to work from home?
- Internal and customer communication strategies
- Sanitation strategies for your facility, employees, and for customers
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) evaluation
- How to handle any employee impacted by travel
When it comes to personal prevention, the CDC also put together excellent personal preventive measures, including: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html
- Handwashing often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, after using the bathroom, before eating anything, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Handwashing is probably the most important step you can take to prevent getting sick.
- If soap and water aren’t easily accessible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (a minimum of 60% alcohol).
- When it’s possible, avoid using other people’s phones, workspaces, tools, etc.
- Tissues should be used to cover your cough or sneeze. Throw it out after. If tissues are not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand.
- Avoid close contact with people who have illness symptoms.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home if you’re sick! Seek medical care promptly.
The U.S. Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued an alert that captures how to minimize and prevent employees’ exposure to the coronavirus if their job is public-facing. OSHA has created guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf
As an employer you should do the following:
- Identify and evaluate if there are any hazardous conditions that employees may be exposed during their job tasks
- Determine what the employee’s risk of exposure is to the coronavirus
- Identify and implement measures that will help prevent employees’ exposure. Preventive measures could include physical barriers, distancing/isolating from other employees, additional PPE, cleaning supplies and practices
- Consider if you need to communicate with your customer base about your response to the coronavirus
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Guidance says that employers should actively recommend sick employees stay home, particularly if they have a respiratory illness or have a fever. They should only come back to work if they are fever free or don’t show fever symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
Consider if all or some of your employees can work remotely. Keep in mind the jobs and tasks that could be completed remotely and the hardware or software that these individuals would need to work on their projects. Think about the necessary communications and measurements your organization would need to put in place to ensure the change still meets business goals.
If you’re considering a required work from home policy for all employees
Before implementing a mandated work from home policy, ensure that your organization’s situation falls within the definitions set out by the CDC, World Health Organization, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Then consult an attorney to ensure the policy also complies the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in addition to the other regulatory agencies.
It can’t be helped that some employees will be unable to fulfill their jobs unless they are at work. Your organization may want to:
- Take additional time and resources to ensure the proper cleaning and sanitization of the workplace, particularly in highly trafficked areas.
- Promote proper hygiene at work. For example, clearly communicate and display posters outlining hand hygiene, how to contain germs, and what to do when you’re sick.
- Place additional sanitation products, like gloves and soap, in easily accessible areas for employees and customers.
- Encourage employees to use the business’s sick time or leave time leave policies if they’re sick and unable to go to work.
Although employees can’t use the Family Medical Leave Act to prevent themselves from getting sick, they could use it if they need to care for their own serious health condition or for a family member. You’ll want to check your state’s laws about paid family medical leave too.
Depending on your travel history, you will be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days from the time you left an area with widespread or ongoing community spread (Level 3 Travel Health Notice). Countries that have a Level 3 Travel Health Notice (widespread, ongoing transmission): https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices
According to CDC Guidelines stay home for 14 days from the time you left an area with widespread, ongoing community spread (Level 3 Travel Health Notice countries) and practice social distancing.
Take these steps to monitor your health and practice social distancing:
- Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever. Also watch for cough or trouble breathing.
- Stay home and avoid contact with others. Do not go to work or school for this 14-day period. Discuss your work situation with your employer before returning to work.
- Do not take public transportation, taxis, or ride-shares during the time you are practicing social distancing.
- Avoid crowded places (such as shopping centers and movie theaters) and limit your activities in public.
- Keep your distance from others (about 6 feet or 2 meters).
If you get sick with fever (100.4°F/38°C or higher), cough, or have trouble breathing:
- Seek medical care. Call ahead before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room.
- Tell your doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
Here is a link to the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District on Testing Guidelines: https://www.sanantonio.gov/Portals/0/Files/health/COVID19/PUI%20Guidelines%203-11-20.pdf?ver=2020-03-11-215936-423
For additional questions on monitoring your health, contact your local public health officials. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/Phone-Numbers_State-and-Local-Health-Departments.pdf
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that pays for medical bills and some lost-time income for employees who have a work-related injury or illness. To qualify, an employer must have workers’ compensation insurance, and an employee must have been injured or contracted an occupational disease as a result of their employment. Whether a workers’ compensation claim is compensable or not is a case by case determination by the insurance carrier. If there is a dispute over a claim and you are not able to resolve the dispute with the insurance carrier, then you may ask for dispute resolution by contacting DWC.
Businesses play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety as well as limiting the negative impact to the economy and society. Planning for pandemic disease is critical. To assist you in your efforts, click on the following link for a checklist to assist businesses. It identifies important, specific activities large businesses can do now to prepare, many of which will also help you in other emergencies. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/pdf/businesschecklist.pdf
The U.S. Department of Labor’s and the Wage and Hour Division published guidance on COVID-19 issues as they related to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Family and Medical Leave Act.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick or family leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.
- Fair Labor Standards Act https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/pandemic
- Family Medical Leave Act https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla/pandemic
- Department of Labor: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave
United Way in San Antonio has put a list of helpful resources to help you and your family through these difficult times.
- San Antonio United Way https://www.unitedwaysatx.org/covid19/
- Houston United Way https://www.unitedwayhouston.org/work/disaster/coronavirus/
- Dallas United Way https://unitedwaydallas.org/coronavirus/
- Austin United Way https://www.unitedwayaustin.org/united-way-for-greater-austin-responds-to-covid-19/
- Corpus Christi Area United Way https://www.uwcb.org/covid-19
- Rio Grande Valley Area: https://unitedwayofsotx.org/
- United Way United States: http://www.211.org/services/covid19
San Antonio Community Resource Directory (SACRD) is a directory of resources offered by congregations, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and compassionate groups in and around San Antonio. https://sacrd.org/directory/
On Wednesday evening, March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the second coronavirus relief bill, HR 6201. This law provides several economic stimulus appropriations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for more information: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AixrIcLuBqYcgQj-IymsykHY7WIV?e=endDBI
- Cororna Virus Letter to Employees : https://1drv.ms/w/s!AixrIcLuBqYcgQ2zLGdTMmaB1ohb?e=YTOtzp
- Infection Disease Control Sample Policy: https://1drv.ms/w/s!AixrIcLuBqYcgQ4QfQwOClfz55pb?e=3AoiEF
- Sample Notice of Workplace Disease: https://1drv.ms/w/s!AixrIcLuBqYcgROwawMPamfKdCfq?e=ewaRLd
- Telecommuniting Policy: https://1drv.ms/w/s!AixrIcLuBqYcgQq-uUhPLVFQaKCd?e=EtHbxj
- COVID-19 Safety Training: https://content.verasuite.com/COVID-19GeneralAwareness/index.html#/
- Safety Short Talks: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AixrIcLuBqYcgVWdArnHM2tVfVwU?e=8z8b7d
- Safety Posters and Signs: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AixrIcLuBqYcgUmV2gooJUnPRuk6?e=DLK5oT
Below is additional information regarding how each health insurance carrier is addressing the testing, the costs and other assistance offerings associated with the Coronavirus.