Both business owners and employees have been dealing with a lot of extra hassles and stressors since the COVID-19 pandemic took off in the U.S. in March, 2020. Many of our tourist businesses have shut down or had to dramatically alter the way they do business. Thousands of workers are still out of work and others are now working remotely. For businesses that are operating – especially those that are just scraping by – it may be their worst nightmare for one of their employees to test positive for COVID-19 or come into contact with someone who tested positive. No business wants to deal with a hassle, especially one that can tank employee morale, create lost sales through negative PR and sink productivity with workers needing to quarantine. The reality is that with the pandemic dragging on, some business owners will end up with an employee who tests positive for Coronavirus. The way that it’s handled could make or break the business.
So, what should you do if one of your employees tests positive for COVID-19?
If your employee tests positive then you have a duty to take the situation seriously and act quickly. This starts with internal actions that should be taken to keep your other employees safe and informed. It’s also very important to treat the employee with kindness and empathy and let them know that you are here to support them through this time. The HR team or HR partner (PEO) should be notified right away so they can offer support. The HR team can provide information about the company’s sick leave policy and draft a statement to inform all team members about the positive test while following employer laws.
Note that if an employee tests positive while performing a work-related duty, you may need to report the incident on your OSHA Form 300 log. If you are partnered with a PEO, you should reach out to their safety officer for guidance.
According to CDC.gov, in the interest of safety, a business should:
- Shut down all areas where the sick employee worked or visited for an extended period of time (10-30 minutes) in the last 14 days. In some situations, it may be appropriate to shut down the whole facility.
- Ideally, wait 24-hours before cleaning and disinfecting these areas in order to allow time for the droplets to clear up. This will help protect other employees or third party cleaners from coming into contact with the virus.
- Start by cleaning the affected areas with soap and water. Next, disinfect with an EPA approved disinfectant known to eliminate Coronavirus. Follow all instructions on the bottles, including any PPE required for safety.
- You will need to notify any employees or third parties who were in prolonged contact with the infected employee within the last 14 days of their possible exposure to Coronavirus. Note that businesses must maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), HIPPA and other state laws and may need to work with local health authorities to ensure proper contact tracing.
- In most cases, employers should require any employees who may have been exposed to stay home for 14 days, telework if they can, and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Employees should not be allowed to return to in-person workplaces until they have met the criteria to stop home isolation and have been cleared by a healthcare provider.
After informing your employees and third-party workers, it may be a good idea to make a public statement through a carefully written PR message. Share what you are doing to support and keep your employees safe (such as generous sick leave, mask requirements and symptom checks) and the work you are putting in to clean and sanitize your workplace. Just be sure to maintain your employees’ confidentiality.
How partnering with a PEO can support your business during COVID-19
When small business owners’ partner with Makai HR they gain peace of mind that they are complying with all of Hawaii’s labor laws, which is especially important when decisions are being made about how to handle a health crisis or when handling a situation like an employee testing positive for COVID-19. In addition, as a PEO, we provide comprehensive health care plans at rates that small businesses can afford that will make it so your employees can afford to go to the doctor for testing and treatment.
Do not delay. Contact us today with any questions about how we can support your business and employees during the pandemic!