This week federal officials have warned the public that the nation needs to be prepared for a potential Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that could significantly disrupt day-to-day life and operations in many schools, communities and businesses.
The Centers for Disease Control, during a press briefing this week, recommended that businesses increase the use of videoconferencing to avoid physical gatherings in the event of an outbreak. Here are some other suggestions that businesses and employers should consider regarding COVID-19 moving forward:
- Look at policies regarding tele-commuting and come up with an action plan if employees would need to be absent from the workplace for a period of time;
- Be ready with information for employees, vendors and customers alike. Communicate early, often, and transparently with the goal of reducing anxiety and educating on infection control. Consider publishing information and updates on the company website;
- Review your Employee Handbook’s policies that address health issues; absences and emergency preparedness. Consider whether specific policy revisions are needed to address potential emergency scenarios;
- Consider whether contract language with vendors and customers is needed to address a potential outbreak – much like the Y-2K response.
- Identify and track sources of information. Keep abreast daily of information globally, nationally, locally, and in your workplace;
- Follow state and local public health steps and be resource aware;
- Take reasonable steps to limit exposure (e.g. allowing vulnerable populations to take time away from work if needed, cancelling major social events that would draw large crowds; preparing for any possible company closures, managing workplace hygiene, etc.);
Companies should assist employees and others in and about the workplace to reduce their risk for getting and spreading viral respiratory infections, including the flu and common cold, by encouraging them to take simple steps which will also prevent COVID-19 (e.g. staying home when they are sick, frequent hand washing, and providing adequate supplies for good hygiene, etc.).
Of course, as always, businesses need to mindful of privacy issues and applicable laws and regulations regarding such matters in addressing this health situation.
The Business and Employment Law Practice Groups at Stock and Leader are closely monitoring issues surrounding the coronavirus to provide you with any pertinent updates. Please contact us with any questions.