Employer Update: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)


Here are some “safe practices” that can help you and your employees

Cardinal Services acknowledges the worry and the many questions on employers’ minds with the arrival of the Coronavirus in the Pacific Northwest. We want to share some best practices that can help you and your employees during this ongoing health challenge.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Rules on “Safe Workplace”

Under OSHA, employers do have a responsibility to maintain a safe workplace, but at this time, the risk of exposure for the average worker is relatively low. Though many employees may feel uneasy about coming to work or working with the public, a few essential precautions and an open communication policy at your company can go a long way to easing fears.

Call-In and Attendance Policies

Review your procedures for calling in sick or unplanned absences. Review these procedures with your staff and your managers so that they can review these with their work crews. It is crucial for every employee to know the company’s sick, vacation, or paid time off (PTO) policies, and managers should be prepared to answer questions from your staff.

Keep in mind, employees requesting time off for illness, may have some job protections under other Federal or State Leave Laws such as the Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), California Paid Family Leave (PFL), California Family Rights Act (CRFA), or even the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Generally, however, an employee is not entitled to these protected leaves if staying home just to avoid getting sick.

Flu/Infectious Disease Best Practices

  • Encourage sick employees to stay home
  • You may legally send sick employees home
  • Wash hands frequently with soap & water (20 seconds)
  • Have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer available
  • Avoid close contact with people that are sick
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and face
  • Cover mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue—then wash hands!
  • Increase workplace cleaning frequency—disinfect frequently touched items and surfaces, including counters, doorknobs, break-rooms, kitchens, and restrooms
  • Offer virtual webinars or conference calls instead of in-person meetings, if feasible
  • Stay current with local and national health agency recommendations
  • Limit travel to affected areas
  • Consider offering telework, i.e., working remotely to potentially exposed employees during the incubation period

Mitigate Your Litigation Risk

  • Remember, all medical information must be treated as confidential. Remind your staff of this as well.
  • If an employer would like an employee who has been exposed to stay home (even though the employee is not exhibiting symptoms), pay the employee applicable sick leave or PTO while they are required to stay home.

Company Proactive Steps

Crafting and sending out a company-wide memo can help clarify questions and allay fears. This communique should include a reminder on safe infectious disease-avoidance practices, call-in protocols, sick-leave, and other information that is appropriate to your company, your location, or your industry.

Call Cardinal – We’re Here to Help

If you have any questions or concerns on how to handle this public health challenge, please contact the HR Specialists at Cardinal. We can advise you on how to proceed with your company communications and review your policies that apply to this situation.

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