BPHR’s Director Lisa Salcido, SPHR, SHRM-SCP provides answers to your pressing HR questions.
Question: What can employers do to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak?
Answer: Given the uncertainty around the coronavirus and the new cases increasing daily, your employees are thinking and talking about its potential impact on the workplace.
Employers should take proactive steps to protect against the spread of contagious diseases and comply with legal obligations to provide a safe and healthy workplace. Let your employees know now how the company plans to protect them and maintain business operations in the event of a widespread outbreak.
- Communicate safety procedures and emergency response plans.
- Review all attendance, sick, travel and telecommuting policies.
- Identify which applicable laws cover absences, provide job protected leave and/or paid time off for an employee’s own illness or an eligible family member’s illness. New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Law specifically covers business and school closings due to public health emergencies.
- Train workers on how to protect themselves with good hygiene practices like washing hands, using sanitizers, regularly cleaning common surfaces and avoiding hand shaking.
- Educate staff about symptoms to watch for (currently, from the CDC: mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing).
- Inform employees about steps they should take if they suspect they have been exposed to coronavirus, including reporting any travel to high-risk areas.
- Encourage employees who do not feel well to seek medical attention and avoid the workplace until they recover.
- Consider instituting telecommuting arrangements and suspending overseas business travel.
- Implement strategies for coverage of essential business functions.
Employers should stay informed by reviewing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and continually monitoring recommendations from state local health officials.
The New Jersey Department of Health has several resources for employers including a guide and a 24-hour public hotline (1-800-222-1222) with trained professionals to answer any questions about COVID-19.
DISCLAIMER: The material presented on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion.
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