How to Create a COVID-19 Safety Plan for your Workplace
Employers and HR teams are tasked with keeping their teams safe, regardless of the circumstances. A pandemic is no different. As offices around the country continue to reopen during the coronavirus crisis, find out how to create a CDC-recommended safety plan for your workplace.
Struggles HR Teams Face During COVID-19
One of the ongoing concerns in responding to the COVID-19 crisis is that information changes in real-time. Yet with busy work-from-home schedules, many HR administrators find it difficult to keep up with the latest pandemic risks, including how it spreads and what protects people.
However, it remains a necessity that HR teams keep their employees informed—especially if they’ve returned to the office or worksite. Develop a safety plan for your workplace and treat it like any other safety protocol or contingency plan. You need to know exactly what you can and can’t do to keep people safe and include the measures that you’ve implemented to do just that.
7 Steps for Developing a COVID-19 Safety Plan
The CDC identifies seven key steps for small businesses to include in each plan:
- Identify an Onsite Workplace Coordinator: This individual will assess and control workplace safety measures, as well as respond to other employees who have COVID-19-related concerns.
- Examine Leave, Telework, and Compensation Policies: If possible, implement flexible and non-punitive leave policies, and permit sick employees to work from home. Leave policies should also account for parents who need to stay home with children after school closures or to care for sick family. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) recently implemented expanded paid leave requirements that reinforce these measures. Additionally, use flexible work environments like telework and staggered shifts to establish social distancing practices.
- Review Leave Policies with Team Members: Keep every employee informed about relevant leave policies and procedures—and how they can protect themselves at work and at home. In addition, provide information about any relevant employee assistance programs (EAPs) if offered by your organization.
- Identify Essential Staff and Business Functions: Put a plan in place in case there are major disruptions to your normal operations. Then, select the employees necessary to keep the business running smoothly if the organization must layoff, furlough, or grant sick leave to a significant portion of the staff. HR teams should also implement detailed reasons for marking these individuals as essential. Doing so may protect your organization in the instance a former employee files a disparate treatment claim if they suspect the decision to not bring them back might have something to do with their protected class status.
- Prepare Business Continuity Plans: Plan for significant absenteeism in case there’s an outbreak, as well as supply chain disruptions and other necessary adjustments to normal operations.
- Establish Emergency Communications Plan: Key contacts need to be identified, along with backups and a chain of communications between your organization, suppliers, and customers. The CDC also recommends establishing processes for tracking and communicating about business and employee status.
- Share Response Plans, Expectations with Employees: Everyone needs to know how and when to act if a coworker tests positive for COVID-19.
Also be sure to include measures to protect employees' health during the reopening. The CDC recommends 10 tips, including actively encouraging sick employees to stay home, implementing social distancing, and performing routine cleaning. Mask mandates can also be included.
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