COVID-19 and the workplace: Bring employees back safely

COVID-19 and the workplace: Bring employees back safely

by Amie Remington, Esq., on August 25, 2020
Are you ready to re-open your business and bring your staff back into the workplace, but unsure of how to keep them safe? 

What are businesses doing to protect employees?

A recent survey* of 150 businesses in a variety of industries showed that 70% of employers are developing their own written return-to-work strategies based on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local executive orders.

Here are some of the measures business owners are taking:
  • 92% of the executives said their companies are requiring masks and social distancing.
  • 93% of employers said their companies had enhanced cleaning protocols.
  • More than one-half of those surveyed require daily temperature checks and health screening. A little over one-third said their firms would attempt to conduct contact tracing if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
  • About one-half of employers said they had 15% or fewer workforce on-site, while 19% said that 75% or more of their employees were back in the workplace.
  • 8% of employers said they are mandating that employees sign waivers before returning to the workplace, while 73% said they were not pursuing employee waivers at this time.
What should you do to protect your employees from COVID-19?

LandrumHR recently hosted a Q&A webinar and answered attendees’ questions about what employers can and can’t require from employees, best practices for cleaning protocols and how to deal with COVID-19-related leave and layoffs.

We recommend employers follow the guidelines set by the CDC, OSHA and local authorities to provide a safe work environment and limit their liability if an employee becomes ill.

The CDC recommends that all employers should implement a plan that:
  • Is specific to your workplace and industry
  • Identifies all areas and job tasks with potential exposures to COVID-19
  • Includes control measures to eliminate or reduce such exposures
  • Follows recommendations of state and local health officials
All employers should include activities to prevent and reduce transmission among employees and maintain normal business operations and a healthy work environment. According to the CDC, necessary steps should include but are not limited to:
  • Actively encourage employees to stay home when they are sick.
  • Consider daily in-person or virtual health checks that follow confidentiality guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work.
  • Send any employee who appears to have symptoms home immediately.
  • Protect employees at higher risk for severe illness through supportive policies and practices.
  • Establish policies and practices for social distancing.
  • Give employees, customers, and visitors what they need to clean their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes.
  • Perform routine cleaning by following the Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting to develop, implement, and maintain a plan to perform regular cleanings to reduce risk.
  • Minimize risk when planning meetings and gatherings by using technology such as videoconferencing or teleconferencing when possible.
  • Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices.
  • Remind workers of available support services
COVID-19 Workplace Resources

A full list of recommendations can be found here: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), May 2020

OSHA COVID-19 guidance has additional information about how to protect workers from potential exposures according to their exposure risk. Plans should consider that even asymptomatic employees can spread COVID-19.

Be mindful that both OSHA and the CDCs’ websites are robust and change on a frequent basis as new information is learned about COVID; therefore, routine monitoring of the websites is recommended.

For more up-to-date information about COVID-19 and business re-opening and recovery, visit our COVID-19 Employer Resource Center and check out our on-demand webinars about everything from employee safety to PPP loan forgiveness:

* Survey conducted by Philadelphia-based law firm Blank Rome LLP, July 2020
Amie Remington, Esq.

As General Counsel of LandrumHR, Amie advises on all business and employment-related legal issues. She is also a regular speaker at national and state-wide events, discussing all aspects of employment law that affect all employers, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the state counterparts to these laws. Before joining LandrumHR, Amie was a partner in the law firm of Bozeman, Jenkins & Matthews, P.A., where she represented employers, management and the State of Florida in all types of employment-related matters. At the firm, Amie focused on policy creation, prevention of discrimination and harassment and management education and training, as well as all aspects of employment litigation, including trial and appeal work.

View more blogs by Amie Remington, Esq.