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How To Maintain Healthy Business Operations During COVID-19

How To Maintain Healthy Business Operations During COVID-19

How to maintain healthy business operations during COVID-19. Identify a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues and their impact at the workplace.

Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices:

Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of and understand these policies.

Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member or take care of children due to school and childcare closures. 

Additional flexibilities might include giving advances on future sick leave and allowing employees to donate sick leave to each other.

Employers that do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees should consider drafting non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies.

Employers should not require a COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work.

Under the American’s with Disabilities Act, employers are permitted to require a doctor’s note from your employee’s external icon to verify that they are healthy and able to return to work. 

However, as a practical matter, be aware that healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner. 

Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care and can follow CDC recommendations to determine when to discontinue home isolation and return to work.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has established guidance regarding Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Actexternal icon. 

The guidance enables employers to take steps to protect workers consistent with CDC guidance, including requiring workers to stay home when necessary to address the direct threat of spreading COVID-19 to others.

Review human resources policies to make sure that your policies and practices are consistent with public health recommendations and with existing state and federal workplace laws (for more information on employer responsibilities, visit the Department of Labor’s and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s websites).

Connect employees to employee assistance program (EAP) resources, if available, and community resources as needed. Employees may need additional social, behavioral, and other services, for example, to help them manage stress and cope.

Protect employees at higher risk for severe illness through supportive policies and practices. 

Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Support and encourage options to telework, if available.

Consider offering vulnerable workers duties that minimize their contact with customers and other employees (e.g., restocking shelves rather than working as a cashier), if the worker agrees to this.

Offer flexible options such as telework to employees. This will eliminate the need for employees living in higher transmission areas to travel to workplaces in lower transmission areas and vice versa.

Ensure that any other businesses and employers sharing the same workspace also follow this guidance.

Communicate supportive workplace policies clearly, frequently, and via multiple methods.

 Employers may need to communicate with non-English speakers in their preferred languages.

Train workers on how implementing any new policies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 may affect existing health and safety practices.

Communicate to any contractors or on-site visitors about changes that have been made to help control the spread of COVID-19. Ensure that they have the information and capability to comply with those policies.

Create and test communication systems that employees can use to self-report if they are sick and that you can use to notify employees of exposures and closures.

Consider using a hotline or another method for employees to voice concerns anonymously.

Assess your essential functions

Assess your essential functions and the reliance that others and the community have on your services or products.

Be prepared to change your business practices, if needed, to maintain critical operations (e.g., identify alternative suppliers, prioritize existing customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations).

Identify alternate supply chains for critical goods and services. Some goods and services may be in higher demand or unavailable.

If other companies provide your business with contract or temporary employees, talk with them about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.

Talk with business partners about your response efforts. Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially those in your supply chain), chambers of commerce, and associations to improve community response efforts.

When resuming onsite business operations, identify and prioritize job functions for continuous operations. Minimize the number of workers present at worksites by resuming business operations in phases, balancing the need to protect workers with support for continuing operations.

Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes

Determine how you will operate if absenteeism spikes from increases in sick employees, those who stay home to care for sick family members, and those who must stay home to watch their children until childcare programs and K-12 schools resume.

Plan to monitor and respond to absenteeism at the workplace.

Implement plans to continue your essential business functions in case you experience higher-than-usual absenteeism.

Prepare to institute flexible workplace and leave policies.

Cross-train employees to perform essential functions so the workplace can operate even if key employees are absent.

Establish policies and practices for social distancing.

Alter your workspace to help workers and customers maintain social distancing and physically separate employees from each other and from customers, when possible. 

Here are some strategies that businesses can use:

Implement flexible worksites (e.g., telework).

Implement flexible work hours (e.g., rotate or stagger shifts to limit the number of employees in the workplace at the same time).

Increase physical space between employees at the worksite by modifying the workspace.

Increase physical space between employees and customers (e.g., drive-through service, physical barriers such as partitions).

Use signs, tape marks, or other visual cues such as decals or colored tape on the floor, placed 6 feet apart, to indicate where to stand when physical barriers are not possible.

Implement flexible meeting and travel options (e.g., postpone non-essential meetings or events in accordance with state and local regulations and guidance).

Close or limit access to common areas where employees are likely to congregate and interact.

Prohibit handshaking.

Deliver services remotely (e.g., phone, video, or web).

Adjust your business practices to reduce close contact with customers — for example, by providing drive-through service, click-and-collect online shopping, shop-by-phone, curbside pickup, and delivery options, where feasible.

Move the electronic payment terminal/credit card reader farther away from the cashier, if possible, to increase the distance between the customer and the cashier.

Shift primary stocking activities to off-peak or after hours, when possible, to reduce contact with customers.
If you have more than one business location, consider giving local managers the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their COVID-19 response plans based on their local conditions.

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