Concerned about coronavirus? Here are some things employers should consider

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The US Chamber of Commerce has posted a toolkit for employers concerned about infection of staff and customers.

You can access that information here:

US Chamber Coronavirus Toolkit

 

From the CalChamber:

Lately, the coronavirus has been a hot topic of conversation, social media and the news; last week, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declared it a national public health emergency. However, while the coronavirus has grabbed our national attention, an estimated 26 million Americans have suffered from the flu within the last four months and at least 10,000 have died from complications related to the flu. Both the flu and the coronavirus are a strong reminder for employers to create or review their communicable disease policies and practices in the workplace.

California requires all employers to maintain an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), and an effective IIPP includes policies and procedures for addressing communicable diseases. Ensuring adequate communication about workplace safety between employers and their workforce is another important IIPP aspect.

Employers can start providing information to employees using resources available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This toolkit provide action steps that business owners, managers and employees can take to minimize the effect of flu in the workplace. The CDC also offers up-to-date coronavirus information. Communication and education are important first steps towards managing communicable illnesses in the workplace.  

Additionally, the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has released guidance on protecting health care workers from the coronavirus. The guidance covers the safety requirements when providing care for suspected or confirmed patients of the respiratory disease or when handling pathogens in laboratory settings in California.

Other important policies and procedures to consider when managing illnesses in the workplace are flu shots, health screenings, maintaining privacy and employee relocation. However, various employment laws complicate implementing these policies so legal counsel should review them prior to implementing them in your workplace.

Matthew J. Roberts, Esq., Employment Law Counsel Subject Matter Expert

Wage Replacement Options

Two state agencies employers should be paying attention to right now are the Labor Commissioner’s Office in the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), which handles how employees are paid; and the Employment Development Department (EDD), which handles wage replacement, such as state disability insurance and paid family leave.

DLSE

The DLSE has created a Frequently Asked Questions page employers can turn to, Frank says. It features answers to questions such as, “Can an employee use California Paid Sick Leave due to COVID-19 Illness?” and “Can an employer require a worker who is quarantined to exhaust paid sick leave?”

The answers: Yes, an employee can use California Paid Sick Leave if he/she has the time; and no, an employer cannot require a worker to use her/his sick time—it’s the worker’s choice. If sick time is used, Frank explains, the employer can require a worker takes a minimum of 2 hours of paid sick leave per work day, but the worker determines how much time will be used.

The FAQ page is available at: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm.

EDD

California has expanded its paid family leave and disability benefits to workers affected by the COVID-19 virus.

Paid family leave is available to those who are certified by a medical professional to be sick with COVID-19, or are caring for a family member who is certified by a medical professional to be sick with COVID-19, Frank says.

Workers who have had their work hours reduced or who are affected by COVID-19-related office closures can file a claim for state disability insurance (SDI).

More information is available at: https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm.

Workplace Precautions

Frank reminds employers to put together a plan in case their office building closes due to an outbreak or if a worker becomes ill with the COVID-19 virus. For some businesses, this may mean allowing employers to work remotely or closing down the office to wait it out.

Another state agency providing resources to employers is the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), Frank says. The agency has published guidance and fact sheets on the requirements employers from varying industries have to protect workers from the Coronavirus.

More information is available at: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/Health-Care-General-Industry.html.

List of Resources

A resource page with a list of relevant articles and links to government resources is now available on the CalChamber website, www.calchamber.com/coronavirus. The page will be updated regularly to ensure readers have access to the most current information available.

The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) has compiled helpful information for employers and employees. For more information, visit: https://business.ca.gov/coronavirus-2019/.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides extensive and current information. Visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.