Despite best efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, employers everywhere continue to face positive cases at work sites. Now it is likely a matter of when, not if, a positive test does arrive, and it is critical that you know how to respond effectively. Let’s review the basic steps of what to do when an employee tests positive and how to manage it successfully with an hourly, distributed workforce.
Before Testing Employees
It’s ideal to inform all employees of your company’s pandemic response plan and COVID-related policy changes before having employees return to work. However, even if they are already back at worksites, make sure they understand and receive copies of all SOPs related to new worksite protocol, symptom screening/testing processes, and quarantining measures as soon as possible. In addition, consider posting physical policy references at each of your work sites.
Preparing employees ahead of time for such processes can make a huge difference to your overall success at managing these obstacles. If you haven’t constructed a full handbook addendum, check out our blog: Coronavirus Impacts on Employee Handbooks.
Positive COVID-19 Test Results: 6-Step Response Plan1. Quarantine
Assuming you’ve already published a policy and notified employees, the first step in addressing a positive COVID-19 test result is quarantining infected employee(s). That means keeping anyone who has tested positive for the virus from worksites and instructing them to self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days.
Make sure these infected employees understand that they are to remain at home, not have in-person contact with other employees until the 14-day period is up, and re-test for clearance to re-enter worksites.2. Communicate Available Benefits and Privacy Rights
Once an employee has begun their quarantine period, you will need to communicate the employee’s available PTO and sick leave to them (assuming they are not going to be working remotely during their quarantine phase). You should also remind employees of enhanced paid sick leave benefits available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
To uphold ADA compliance and safeguard against potential privacy violations, explain to employees how their name will be protected in company communication about the positive COVID case. If an employee wishes to keep the fact that they have COVID-19 from their manager, inform their manager that they are on a leave of absence for non-disciplinary reasons.3. Assess Risks
Interview positively tested employees on work-related activities during their prior 14-days. This allows your team to trace any potential routes which the virus might spread between employees and lower the risks of site contamination.
Focus on identifying the areas in which the infected employee spent the most time and the individuals who the employees interacted with for prolonged periods. If a worker was within 6 feet of them for more than 15 minutes at a time, the CDC suggests categorizing them as a contact at risk of infection and requesting them to quarantine immediately.4. Take Action
At this point, you will need to cease operational activity and conduct a deep clean of all relevant worksite(s). Disinfect any area where the employee spent significant time and alert “at-risk” employees who worked near the employee of the need to self-isolate for 14 days. It may benefit the morale of your workers to explain the steps being taken to disinfect their workspaces.
If you believe the employee contracted the virus at work, you may need to notify OSHA. Under OSHA's recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness. So, if the case is work-related and it involves one or more of OSHA’s recording criteria, you will be held accountable for logging confirmed cases.5. Inform At-Risk Employees
As previously mentioned, your next step will be to inform employees who were in close contact with the positive case of their possible exposure to the virus. Remember: do not identify the infected employee by name or any other easily-identifiable information (things related to job title or role). Instruct these at-risk individuals to quarantine for 14 days and reiterate the symptoms to watch for with the help of their healthcare provider.6. Inform the Rest of Your Employees
In order to address anxieties or rumors sure to arise during these situations, it’s important that the rest of the workforce learn about the positive COVID-19 case from you directly. Calmly inform employees that a positive COVID case has been identified and detail the actions being taken to ensure their safety. If possible, hold a virtual town hall or find some other way of laying out all the steps your company has taken to manage the situation.
Hourly Workforce Solutions During COVID-19
When it comes to monitoring and protecting employees during these challenging times, EPAY Systems understands the unique obstacles faced by those with an hourly, distributed workforce. We provide a powerful workforce management solution with items like touchless time collection methods, flexible benefits administration, and even dynamic punch questions for easily monitoring symptoms at the start and end of employees’ shifts.