Don’t Panic, 10 Things you Should Do as an Employer to Deal with Covid-19

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Don’t Panic, 10 Things you Should Do as an Employer to Deal with Covid-19

With the number of Covid-19 cases increasing daily, employers are struggling to determine how to respond to the pandemic which has brought about significant challenges to the workplace. These challenges have necessitated employers to take measures to minimize the risk of contamination and spread of the virus in order to ensure business continuity.

After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a global public health emergency, many businesses have been closed to minimize the spread of the virus. Employers still running their businesses, have put in place certain measures to help navigate the current challenges which include employee health, safety, privacy, equal employment and business need operational and compliance.

What Are Employers’ Legal Obligations to Deal With Covid-19?

Many employers wonder what steps can be taken to protect their employees and customers while taking into account health and safety laws that will determine how they move forward.

For example, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers should identify the risk of Covid-19 at work and adapt preventive and protective measures in order to provide a safe and healthy work environment.

Employers and employees must work together to find suitable solutions that address the needs of the business and the staff. Especially when it comes to issues on paid and unpaid leave, as well as working remotely. And in situations where the business operations may be suspended leading to stoppage of work.

Addressing the Covid-19 pandemic may be complex and not all considerations may be covered.  However, here are 10 things every employer should be doing to address the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

10 Things Employers Should Do About Covid-19

  1.  Communication is key. Employers should develop a communication strategy to deal with the pandemic. They can ensure that there is a way to contact all employees regardless of where they are.Clearly advise your employees especially on the emerging questions that they may have as well as on the changes in business operations.
  2. Educate employees on the standard precautions such as the need for social distancing and the need to stay at home when you are sick. Also remind them of proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette as well as disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  3. There should be restriction on business travel to high-risk places. The CDC has advised against all non-essential travel to China, Iran, Most of European countries and US. Here in Kenya there are certain counties and towns that are under partial lockdown, therefore non-essential travel to such destinations has been banned by the Ministry of Health.
  1. Precaution should be taken with employees returning from areas heavily impacted by the Coronavirus.If an employee has travelled to such an area, consider making that employee stay home until medically cleared to return to work. If feasible, consider whether the employee should work remotely based on responsibilities and business requirements.
  2. Encourage sick employees to stay home and determine how to compensate them.As an employer you have an obligation to keep employees safe. Therefore, in a crisis situation the employer should communicate with employees on compulsory leave, salary reduction or unpaid leave. According to Bowmans law, if an employee does not consent to unpaid leave then the likelihood of loss of job would increase.
  3. Be impartial in the way you treat employees.For example, do not base decisions to restrict employees from work on any protected grounds such as gender, age, race or disability. Establish an approach that treats all employees fairly and stick to it.
  4. Subjecting employees to medical testing as they enter the workplace should be avoided. However, Kenyan employers are obliged to ensure the sufficient provision of proper medicine for their employees during an illness and if possible medical attendance when necessary.
  5. How to deal with employees suspected to be exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms. The employer should encourage the employee to contact the government health officials to seek immediate medical attention. They should also be required to self-quarantine for a period of at least 14 days.
  6. Respect your employees’ confidentiality. This may vary depending on the size of the company. It may be appropriate to communicate the news to everyone who has had contact with the employee who tested positive, if the organization is small. This communication should be done discretely and the close contact group required to seek medical attention.
  7. Start business contingency planning. Clearly, the disruptions caused by the Coronavirus have significant effects on business. Developing a contingency plan tailored to your industry is one of the best ways businesses can soften the blow of these disruptions.

The key to a solid plan is proper communication. Employers should continue to monitor the progress of the pandemic while communicating significantly with their staff and customers. This is likely to increase trust and reduce the impact of the change to the business objectives overall.

The Covid-19 outbreak implicates a range of employment laws. Legal counsel should be consulted for advice on proactive and responsive legal requirements.

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Editorial Team

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