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Top COVID-19 Questions in The Workplace

When the lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders began to emerge across the country earlier in the year, many hoped that this would all be over by summer at the latest. Unfortunately, this has been far from the case and with a recent spike in cases everywhere, any resolve to the current situation is proving to be a slow non-linear process.

Businesses will continue to be impacted by the effects of COVID-19 and many will see some form of it reach their workplace. So, we have put together a list of some common questions answered by the CDC to better prepare your business.

1. If an employee has a family member that has tested positive, but my employee has no symptoms, can they still come in?

This depends on how the family member is isolating themselves from your employee. If the infected member can isolate in a separate area of the house and there is no contact at all between them and your employee, then they can come into work. If there is contact of any kind, and the member of the family cannot isolate themselves in the same household, then your employee must quarantine for 14 days from the last day of contact. If the contact is continuous the 14 days restarts until the infected person has been cleared of the infection.

2. If an employee was tested for COVID-19 and did not get their results until eight days later but the results came back positive, do we need to inform the rest of the staff even though no one is showing any symptoms?

Yes, your staff should be notified immediately of possible exposure. However, confidentiality should be kept per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Any staff that has come in contact with that employee should quarantine for 14 days from the day of exposure. Even though eight days have already passed, they should quarantine for the remaining six days and immediately notify you if they experience any symptoms.

3. What do I need to do if an employee comes in and is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms?

Any employees that come in with symptoms or develop them throughout the day should immediately be sent home. Employers cannot require sick employees to provide positive results from a COVID-19 test to validate their illness. If any symptoms are present, employees should stay home and quarantine for 14 days. Employees can return to work after the 14 days AND symptoms have subsided.

4. How do I keep employees and customers safe?

If your business requires interaction between employees and customers, you should consider the following if you have not already:

  • Encourage physical distancing by placing markers with six feet of distance around your workplace.
  • Instruct staff to wear a mask on-site whenever possible.
  • Increase your cleaning on surfaces that are frequently touched.
  • Schedule handwashing breaks so employees can continuously wash their hands and have hand sanitizers available for them to use in between breaks.
  • Make sure your workplace is as well ventilated as possible.
  • Where possible, set up physical barriers between employee stations and customers.
  • Cancel physical meetings at the workplace and switch to digital conferences when possible.

5. Should we be screening for COVID-19 every day?

Screening employees is optional but recommended. However, pre-screening health checks may not be entirely effective as some individuals with little no symptoms may still pass without knowing they are carrying the infection. Screening and health checks are not to be used as a replacement for other protective measures such as social distancing and wearing masks. In addition to having a temperature station that is frequently sanitized, consider a questionnaire that includes the following:

  • New or unexpected symptoms such as fevers, chills, new cough, difficult breathing, and new loss of taste or smell.
  • Are they awaiting results for a COVID-19 test.
  • Have they been in contact with/live with someone that tested positive.

6. What happens if an employee does not want to wear a mask?

It would be beneficial to update your current policies and procedures to include mask-wearing and other safety procedures. Any employees that are not complying with standard protocol for reasons that DO NOT include medical reasons can be disciplined through standard procedures. If an employee is not wearing a mask due to medical reasons, you will need to provide reasonable accommodations that may include alternative Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) i.e., face shield, working remotely, or any other alternative solutions.

These are some confusing and stressful times that everyone is trying to navigate as best as possible. Whenever there is any doubt, make sure to defer to your in-house HR department or a trusted HR partner, as these recommendations and regulations are ever-changing with the current situation at hand.

How can Payroll Systems help you with workforce management? We offer a combination of software and human support for your business. Contact us to learn more about our highly scalable HR and payroll solutions.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.