Employers are rightly concerned about the growing risk of COVID-19 infection throughout California and the country. You can keep employees’ fears in check by providing proactive information and having response steps in place.
Awareness and Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a very helpful guide for businesses, which describes the best things employers can do to keep workplaces safe:
- Encourage/require employees who are sick to stay home.
- Instruct all supervisors to keep an eye out for employees who exhibit symptoms (fever, respiratory distress, etc.) and send them home right away.
- Instruct all employees to wash their hands frequently with soap and/or use hand sanitizer.
- Clean and sanitize frequently-touched areas such as doorknobs and light switches, and common areas such as break rooms, conferences rooms, and restrooms more frequently.
- If employees have planned international travel, advise them to check the CDC’s Traveler Health Notices for the most up-to-date guidance.
If an employee believes he/she may have been exposed to COVID-19 or shows symptoms consistent with infection, the CDC recommends the following:
- Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants).
- Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
Certain healthcare employers such as hospitals, skilled nursing homes, and homeless shelters have additional responsibilities to protect employees from infectious disease. If your organization is covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard you may access specific Cal-OSHA guidance.
Employee Time Off and Office Closure
In the event that an office closure is recommended, plan ahead to determine which employees may be able to work from home, if any. By having a plan in place, you can minimize employee confusion and encourage as much of a “business as usual” approach as possible. If non-exempt employees will be working from home, remind them of their responsibility to accurately record work hours and take appropriate rest and meal periods. You are not required to pay non-exempt employees for periods when they are not working, but exempt employees must receive the full salary for any workweek in which they perform work.
California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) has provided updated information regarding benefits eligibility based on the reason an employee is away from work.