How businesses can contribute to employee and society well-being in light of the coronavirus spread.
The coronavirus outbreak has prompted rapid action from employers globally hoping to stop the spread of the disease and keep their employees and society at large safe and well. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended social distancing, especially in communities where the disease has been identified. As an employer during this trying time, consider the following recommendations on safe workplace practices, sick leave, and good corporate citizenship.
Suggestions for Employers During the Coronavirus Outbreak
For employees who have paid sick leave and other leave benefits, the use of these health and wellness benefits should be encouraged if people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or if they are experiencing any symptoms of illness. However, in light of the crisis surrounding the spread of the disease, benefit programs may need to be tweaked to accommodate employees who do not have paid sick leave or similar benefits. Recommendations include:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay at home. “Encouragement” should be supported by waiving the requirement that an employee provides a doctor’s note and maintaining flexible policies that allow employees to stay home to care for a family member who is experiencing symptoms of illness. Policies for missing work related to sickness should be “flexible and consistent with public health guidance.”
- Implement remote working where possible. If your business has the ability to allow employees to work remotely from home, then employees should be encouraged to telework. This can reduce the risk of the disease spreading due to close contact between employees. It can also help employees to feel more comfortable and reduce stress related to fear of exposure.
- Consider extending or amending leave policies. According to The New York Times, 68% of employers surveyed have said that they will pay employees for as long as quarantine lasts (if an employee is quarantined due to symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test) and they were unable to work from home. An additional 12% of companies said that they would pay for two weeks’ worth of time. (20% of companies said they have not yet decided what they will do.) Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is offering up to two weeks of paid leave for any employees who fall ill or are quarantined due to exposure to the coronavirus.
Good Corporate Citizenship: Taking Care of Employees and Others During a Time of Crisis
One of the most effective things that employers can do to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is to make sure that employees stay home when they are sick. Unfortunately, if employees do not have paid leave, they may have to make a hard decision, especially if receiving pay is essential to being able to support their costs of living. Employers can help to encourage sound public health decisions by revising their paid sick leave policies and urging employees to stay at home – offering paid sick leave and the option to work remotely is strongly recommended when possible.