In the event of a health pandemic, such as the current COVID-19 (coronavirus), employers will play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety as well as limiting the impact on the economy and society. Employers may experience employee absences, changes in patterns of commerce, and interrupted supply and delivery schedules. Developing a continuity plan during a pandemic will allow employers to better protect their employees and lessen the impact of the crisis on society and the economy.
Maintaining Operations During a Pandemic
As an employer, you have an important role in protecting employee health and safety and limiting the impact of a health pandemic.
Develop a Disaster Plan
- Be aware of and review federal, state and local health department pandemic plans. Incorporate appropriate actions from these plans into workplace disaster plans.
- Prepare and plan for operations with a reduced workforce.
- Work with your suppliers to ensure that you can continue to operate and provide services.
- Develop a sick leave policy that does not penalize sick employees, thereby encouraging employees who have symptoms to stay home so that they do not infect other employees. Recognize that employees with ill family members may also need to stay home to care for them.
- Identify possible exposure and health risks to your employees. Are employees potentially in contact with people with illnesses such as in a hospital or clinic? Are your employees expected to have a lot of contact with the public?
- Minimize exposure to fellow employees or the public in the event of a pandemic. This may include telecommuting, staggered work shift, and/or increased use of email, telephone and other technology to avoid close person-to-person contact.
- Identify business-essential positions and people required to sustain business-necessary functions and operations. Prepare to cross-train or develop ways to function in the absence of these positions.
- Plan for downsizing services but also anticipate any scenario that may require a surge in your services.
- Stockpile items such as soap, tissue, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and recommended personal protective equipment.
- Make sure that your disaster plan protects and supports your employees, customers, and the public. Be aware of your employees’ concerns about pay, leave, safety and health. Informed employees who feel safe at work are less likely to be absent.
- Identify a central team of people to serve as a communication source during a pandemic so that your employees and customers can have accurate information during the crisis.
- Work with your employees and their union(s) to address leave, pay, transportation, travel, child care, absence, and other human resource issues.
- Work with your insurance companies and state and local health agencies to provide information to employees and customers about medical care in the event of a pandemic.
Protect Employees and Customers
Educate and train employees in proper hand hygiene, cough etiquette, other virus prevention strategies, and social distancing techniques. Understand and develop work practice and engineering controls that could provide additional protection to your employees and customers, such as drive-through service windows, clear plastic sneeze barriers, ventilation, and the proper selection, use and disposal of personal protective equipment.
Avoiding the Spread of Viruses in the Workplace
The best strategy to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a virus during a pandemic is to avoid crowded settings and other situations that increase the risk of exposure to someone who may be infected. If it is necessary to be in a crowded setting, the time spent in a crowd should be as short as possible. Some basic hygiene and social distancing precautions that can be implemented in every workplace include the following:
- Encourage sick employees to stay at home.
- Encourage your employees to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or with hand sanitizer if there is no soap or water available. Also, encourage your employees to avoid touching their noses, mouths, and eyes.
- Encourage your employees to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeves if tissues are not available.
- Employees should avoid close contact with their coworkers and customers (maintain a separation of at least 6 feet). They should avoid shaking hands and always wash their hands after contact with others.
- Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles, and with a place to wash or disinfect their hands.
- Keep work surfaces, telephones, computer equipment, and other frequently touched surfaces and office equipment clean.
- Discourage your employees from using other employees’ phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment.
- Minimize situations where groups of people are crowded together, such as in a meeting. Use email, phones and text messages to communicate with each other. When meetings are necessary, avoid close contact by keeping a separation of at least 6 feet, where possible, and assure that there is proper ventilation in the meeting room.
- Promote healthy lifestyles, including good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation. A person’s overall health affects their body’s immune system and can affect their ability to fight off, or recover from, an infectious disease.
For More Information
Federal, state and local government agencies are your best source of information during this coronavirus outbreak. It is important to stay informed about the latest developments and recommendations since specific guidance may change based upon the characteristics of the virus. Below are several recommended websites that you can rely on for the most current and accurate information:
What GTM is Doing
GTM Payroll Services has a business continuity plan in place to handle situations like the outbreak of COVID-19. Our clients’ payroll will continue to process as normal, and their employees will continue to receive their pay.
Our continuity and disaster preparedness plan helps us continue to function during times when outside forces – like severe weather, widespread blackouts, and public health emergencies – could disrupt our business operations.
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