By Lee Allphin, Employer Advantage Founder and Chairman of the Board
The advance of the COVID-19 coronavirus has the world’s attention. In the United States, employees and employers alike are on high alert watching the developing news each day, wondering “What can we do to protect ourselves, our customers and our livelihoods, in the face of this new disease?”
Be it the seasonal flu or dealing with the spread of something new, Employer Advantage is with you. We understand how daunting it can be for a business owner to consider adjusting business practices to meet the threat of a widespread disease. With our 30 years of experience in helping clients ensure the safety, health, and wellness of their workplace and employees, we also understand the importance of knowledge and preparation to help you get through it.
For example, I had a minor heath issue during my recent vacation in Hawaii. Since I was away from home, I visited an urgent care facility to receive treatment. Greeting me was a sign that read: “To protect our employees, you must put on a mask from the box provided before entering.” Once inside, all patients and employees were indeed wearing masks. I was told by the receptionist that since this urgent care is in a tourist location and most of the patients are visitors to the island, their Human Resources department had mandated this rule. They had heeded official warnings and were wisely working to minimize the potential exposure of their healthcare workers, and patients, to the coronavirus.
No two workplaces are the same, of course. A health care facility in Lihue, Hawaii does not have the same needs as a machine shop in Joplin, Missouri. But there is a common thread: employers everywhere must now make informed decisions regarding the health and welfare of their employees. As a business owner, you must consider your workforce’s daily exposure to visitors, to customers, to vendors, and you must determine how to operate regularly while minimizing risk. You must plan on how to proceed with your work if, despite your best efforts, a large portion of your workforce falls ill.
Having a plan and being prepared can help mitigate both the human and financial strain on your company as caused by the impact of this global outbreak.
Do you have a Coronavirus Plan?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a lengthy list of recommendations for protecting the workplace from COVID-19.
Here is a summary of the recommended strategies for employers, as well as things to consider for your businesses’ Coronavirus Plan:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. This is not an easy decision for employers to make, since the business itself never rests. How do you determine who is sick? What about sick leave policies? Do you require healthcare provider verification? Remember how busy providers are right now. What about sick family members? What about your employees who travel or contact other businesses? Do you have a relationship established with a temporary staffing firm to fill interim needs?
- Separate sick employees: The CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work, or become sick during the day, should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
- Require hand hygiene by all employees: Place hand hygiene reminders at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning: Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
- Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps: Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
- Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment know what to do: Procedures should be in place.
- Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19: Workplace policies and procedures should be in place to direct these employees.
The CDC has also directed the following:
“The severity of illness or how many people will fall ill from COVID-19 is unknown at this time. If there is evidence of a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., employers should plan to be able to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of severity and be prepared to refine their business response plans as needed. For the general American public, such as workers in non-healthcare settings and where it is unlikely that work tasks create an increased risk of exposures to COVID-19, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. The CDC and its partners will continue to monitor national and international data on the severity of illness caused by COVID-19, will disseminate the results of these ongoing surveillance assessments, and will make additional recommendations as needed.
“All employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of acute respiratory illness and lower the impact of COVID-19 in their workplace in the event of an outbreak in the US. They should identify and communicate their objectives, which may include one or more of the following: (a) reducing transmission among staff, (b) protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, (c) maintaining business operations, and (d) minimizing adverse effects on other entities in their supply chains.”
At Employer Advantage, we work with our clients to ensure they have the latest government information as well help them create a plan tailored to their individual workplace environment.
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FREEDOM TO SUCCEED – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of HR, payroll, health and benefits, workplace safety, and more, enhances your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune-500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 400 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (C-PEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com