Now that the COVID-19 coronavirus has appeared in the United States, experts are telling employers that it’s important to have a contagious disease policy in place.
Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, legal editor for XpertHR, a New Jersey-based human resources advisory firm, says written policies help prevent the spread of disease by creating work rules that promote infection control.
In addition to a contagious disease policy, Gonzalez Boyce recommends that organizations have a written policy to guide business operations when decisions must be made rapidly in any chaotic atmosphere, as in the case of a pandemic, natural disaster or other emergency.
Health emergencies like the coronavirus have the potential to seriously hurt workforces and weaken productivity, she said. She advises employers to prepare by having an emergency plan in place that addresses the following issues:
Which employees should come to the workplace? Preparations should be made so that as many employees as possible can work from home. This can be done through issuing computers or other equipment for employees to use at home, if possible.
How will employees find out whether their workplace is closed or otherwise affected? Options to consider are providing a dedicated phone number or website that employees can use to find out the status of their workplace.
What should be done when employees are too sick to work? There should be a contingency plan in place for ensuring vital duties and functions are handled if an employee is unable to work for an extended period of time.
“Having written policies is beneficial in providing clear communication to all employees, visitors, contractors, consultants and vendors who work with a company impacted by a contagious disease or other disaster,” said Gonzalez Boyce. “When crisis strikes, no one is ever truly prepared. However, in business, management should have measures in place to ensure they are prepared for an emergency ahead of time.”