A Step-by-step guide for essential businesses

By Katy Reif, HR Business Partner at Trüpp’s

Step 1: Confirm you are an Essential Business

More cities and states across the U.S. are ordering non-essential businesses to shut down in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Does that include your business? Consult your local or state website to review the executive order and guidelines.

Step 2: Notify your employees

Communication with your employees is crucial. Provide information on why your business is considered essential. If this is done in person, follow up with an email or document with the announcement. Provide each employee with a personalized letter identifying them as being employed by an essential business. This should be on company letterhead and have contact information in case they are stopped, and a law enforcement official wants to confirm.

Step 3: Cleaning measures and social distancing

If your business is open to the public, you will want to confirm you are taking the necessary cleaning measures to safeguard your employees and customers. Any business that plans to continue having employees in the office should ensure cleaning measures are taken and adequate supplies are available to all employees to disinfect workspaces and wash hands. All businesses need to enforce social distancing measures as outlined in the local or state executive order.

Step 4: Risk Mitigation and Emergency Leave Policies

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires every employer with less than 500 employees to provide Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave to every employee. You will need to have a policy in place by April 1st and have every employee acknowledge that they received the policy.

A COVID-19 Return to Work policy should be in place to communicate to all employees how the company plans to prevent exposure and continue to keep employees safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. Your company may already have an emergency response policy in place; review it and ensure it covers a scenario like COVID-19.

Step 5: Be flexible

The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly developing issue with changes happening by the hour. It is important to stay flexible as a business. This may include allowing employees to work remotely whenever possible, allowing different schedules to accommodate the needs of employees, and even changing your operating hours.

Step 6: Know how to respond

Have a plan in place of what you will do if someone on your workforce is showing symptoms or is diagnosed with COVID-19. For more information, you can read our article, What should we do if an employee is suspected of having COVID-19?

Employers should be communicating with their employees that if they are sick, they must stay home. The CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Under updated EEOC guidance for the pandemic, employers can also take an employee’s body temperature but should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.

Currently, those who are experiencing symptoms and are self-isolating can discontinue home isolation after three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery. Recovery is defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and, at least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

OSHA regulations state that employers cannot require a doctor’s note from an employee to return to work after showing symptoms. Medical facilities and healthcare providers may be extremely busy and not able to provide documentation in a timely way.

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