Even with the impending vaccines, the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing in the next few months. If you run a business and have employees on the premises there is a good chance one of them could get infected.
COVID made 2020 a challenging year for business owners, and 2021 looks to be just as harrowing at least for the first half. You need to protect yourself, your business, and your employees.
You need to know what to do if you suspect an employee has COVID-19, or if a staff member tests positive. Plan for the worst and hope for the best is all any of us can do. Read on to learn more about what to do if your staff tests positive for COVID-19.
Suspected COVID-19 Infection
While a work from home strategy works for many businesses, there are certain industries where working from home isn’t possible. If you own a grocery store, a restaurant, or a manufacturing plant, you need workers on sight.
Unfortunately, restaurant and grocery store workers can’t work from home. When it comes to the hospitality business, your workers will try to work sick. If your employees work for tips, they can’t miss a day of work if they don’t have mandated sick leave.
The best way to combat a suspected COVID-19 infection from turning into a full-scale staff outbreak is to have an employee monitoring system in place. This way, you can stop an ill employee from spreading the virus to the rest of your staff.
A typical COVID-19 health monitoring system involves daily temperature checks. If an employee has a fever, they are to be sent home immediately with instructions to not return to work until the fever breaks, or they get tested.
Along with a temperature check, a health questionnaire is an important aspect of preventing a suspected COVID-19 infection from developing. A questionnaire complete with all the known symptoms of COVID is a helpful tool.
These employee monitoring systems will help you in the long run by preventing false worker’s compensation claims.
Remember, as a business owner, you share responsibility along with your staff to make sure your employees and customers remain healthy.
A Confirmed Case of COVID-19
If a suspected case of COVID-19 confirms as positive, it’s not a death sentence for your business. The CDC offers guidelines to keep your business operational through a confirmed positive case.
If possible, you should close off any workplace areas the infected employee used with frequency. If you own a restaurant or retail store, this may not be possible. Either way, if an employee tests positive, the CDC recommends cleaning.
Clean all dirty surfaces with soap and water before you disinfect them.
Employers should notify employees of their possible COVID-19 exposure as soon as possible. When you do this, you must maintain the confidentiality of the infected employee.
The infected employee should remain at home and in isolation for up to 14 days. During that time, you’ll need to provide further education to your staff on what to do if they feel sick.
You, as the employer, should work with local health officials to help stop the spread and instruct employees who were exposed to quarantine and/or consult their doctors for a COVID-19 test. Testing for COVID-19 remains tenuous in some areas, but a test with an adequate amount of isolation is the best way to ensure employee and customer safety.
Though required testing for your employees may take some time and cost you money, it’s the best way to avoid any future liability.
Return to Work
The CDC offers clear guidelines for allowing a suspected infection or a confirmed infection to return to work. An employee can end home isolation and return to work ten days after symptom onset if they are no longer symptomatic. This means 24 hours after the fever abated and other symptoms improved.
If your employee tested positive but didn’t experience symptoms, they may end home isolation and return to work 10 days after their first positive test.
Employer Best Practices
It’s important you relay to your employees how important prevention is. If your business is classified as an essential business, the CDC does offer modified guidelines.
Essential or not, you need to create a work environment where your employees feel comfortable taking the time they need away from work to prevent the spread of this virus.
An open line of management and employee communication is vital. Your employees need to feel comfortable voicing their concerns, and you need to listen to them. Your employees on the ground know what’s best for their safety.
While this seems counterintuitive to your bottom line, your bottom line will be damaged further by a workplace outbreak. Educate your staff, and create an environment where they feel safe from punishment should they need to call off.
What to Do If Your Employee Has COVID-19
The good news is, help is on the way. With a vaccine soon to be on the market, there is light at the end of this dark COVID tunnel. That light is faint and the end is still miles away.
If none of your employees contracted COVID-19, or you haven’t experienced a suspected case, consider your business lucky. Your luck might run out. Make sure you have a plan for a positive or a suspected positive.
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