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What Can HR Do About Holiday Travel During the Pandemic?

What Can HR Do About Holiday Travel During the Pandemic?

The holiday season will likely look a little different for many families in 2020. Yet while the coronavirus pandemic is still impacting communities around the country, employees may still elect to travel to see loved ones during Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve. What can HR do to limit possible outbreaks associated with this seasonal travel?


What Does the CDC Recommend About Holiday Travel?

The CDC compiled precautions and considerations for travelers to mitigate the risk of virus spread during holiday celebrations. These suggestions factor in how coronavirus is thought to spread—through respiratory droplets passed person-to-person when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks—and ways in which this spread can be limited. 

The CDC recommends travelers consider the following factors before attending holiday gatherings: 

  1. Community Levels of COVID-19: How widespread the coronavirus is in the region where you visit or host a gathering. 
  2. Location of the Gathering: Indoor get-togethers are generally riskier than outdoor events due to poor ventilation. 
  3. Duration of the Gathering: Longer-lasting events heighten the risk for community spread. 
  4. Size of the Gathering: More people at an event means more risk for COVID-19 spread.
  5. Travelers’ Starting Destination: People traveling from an especially impacted region may be more likely to spread coronavirus to event attendees. 
  6. Attendee Behavior Prior to Gathering: People who follow CDC-recommended precautions before the event may be less likely to spread the virus.
  7. Attendee Behavior During the Gathering: People who follow CDC-recommended precautions during the event may be less likely to spread the virus.


What Can HR Do to Limit Holiday Travel?

Employers can’t prevent employees from taking non-work trips during the pandemic. However, The National Law Review points out that while employers are permitted to ask employees about their personal travel history—including future plans to travel—they must request this information from all teammates. Likewise, the request itself must be considered a business necessity. 

If an employee is returning from a location specified as high risk by the CDC, state, or local public health officials, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that employers can ask about potential exposure—even if the worker traveled for personal reasons. Employers can also require this employee to self-quarantine until the 14-day period has passed.


HR Communication Recommendations

If necessary, human resources teams can communicate the risks of holiday travel to employees, as well as additional annual reminders. Doing so could prevent an outbreak in your office or at your worksite once employees return after their travels. 

Recommended communications can include: 

  1. Testing Requirements: If COVID-19 spread poses a risk to the daily operations of the business, HR can let employees know that they could be subject to coronavirus testing prior to being permitted to return to the office.
  2. What to Do When Someone Tests Positive: This should be included in your safety plan, but employees should know what happens if an employee tests positive
  3. PTO Use: End-of-year holiday travel planning poses an excellent opportunity for HR to remind workers about PTO use and carryover (if applicable). Additionally, you can avoid staffing strain with the following PTO policy tips.
  4. Paid Leave Rules: Remember: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expanded paid leave requirements relating to COVID-19 absences. 
  5. Updated Safety Plans: For HR teams with established coronavirus safety plans, update any guidelines to accommodate for holiday travel (and subsequent returns to the office). 

Consider communicating this information well before your holiday travel season typically begins. This should give your team enough time to prepare accordingly—and make any necessary adjustments to their time-off requests or trip details.

COVID-19 Return to Work Readiness Checklist

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