As the number of COVID-19 cases grows daily, employers across the country are dealing with the difficult situation of responding to an employee’s positive COVID-19 test.
Employers are responsible for handling the situation swiftly to protect the health of other employees while preserving the affected employee’s confidentiality. In addition to notifying the company and its customers, employers must also disinfect the office and evaluate next steps.
If you’re in this situation, you may be wondering what you need to do. This article provides an overview of how you can respond to finding out an employee has COVID-19.
Responding to the Employee
When an employee notifies you that he or she is sick with COVID-19, you should respond calmly and empathetically. In these uncertain times, it can be easy to overreact, but you need to ensure that the infected employee is treated with compassion. Reassure the employee that their identity will remain confidential, and be sure to help them coordinate taking leave or paid time off until they’ve recovered.
You will also need to ask the employee some potentially difficult questions, including whom the employee has been in contact with in the last two weeks. Obtaining this information is essential so that you can directly notify customers and other employees that they may have been directly exposed to COVID-19.
Notifying Employees and Customers
Without disclosing the identity of the infected employee, you need to notify their co-workers, customers and the rest of the company. Recommend that they should self-quarantine for the next 14 days and monitor themselves for the symptoms of COVID-19. If feasible, allow eligible employees to work from home during this time.
Be sure to notify the rest of the company by email or letter than an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The communication should include what steps your company will be taking to protect the health of other employees. If you plan on having employees work from home for the next 14 days or closing the office, this information should be disclosed in the communication.
Disinfecting the Office
According to the CDC, COVID-19 can remain on hard surfaces for up to 12 hours, creating a potential risk of transmission. All surfaces that the infected employee may have touched should be disinfected, as well as other high-touch surfaces, which include countertops, cabinets, doorknobs, handles and chairs.
Evaluating Leave Policies
Employers need to evaluate what their next steps will be. For some, this may involve shutting down their office. For others, this may mean asking employees to work from home until further notice. Each business is unique and should make the best decision for their unique needs. Should your company decide to shut down, you will need to review your leave policies. Consider asking employees to use their sick leave or paid time off if you’re shutting down the office. You should also be aware of provisions included in the newly instituted federal leave act, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), should you need to close the office or if employees opt to take leave due to COVID-19.
Employers should contact ProAction Insurance Services for more information regarding the FFCRA to ensure that they can comply with the new law’s provisions.
Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, employers should be prepared to respond to an employee testing positive for the disease. By being prepared, employers can swiftly respond to the employee, notify the rest of their organization and make plans for moving forward.
ProAction Insurance Services is here to help during these uncertain times. Contact us for additional COVID-19 resources and guidance for how your company can respond to it.