The Coronavirus outbreak has everyone on edge. Routine screening at work or a phone call might be the way bad news comes to light that an employee has tested positive for COVID. However, the method, the first responsibility of the employers should be to ensure the safety of the employee’s co-workers while adhering to the laws of the land.
Ever since the COVID19 infection has been termed a pandemic by the World Health Organization, workplaces around the world have been busy putting in place action plans in response to employees being tested positive and to keep the workplace safe and sanitized.
This is of paramount importance since offices are hotspots for contamination and spread of the disease, due to the ventilation systems, proximity of employees to others, and so on.
Ensuring that the following practices are strictly adhered to will definitely go a long way in keeping the office space and its occupants healthy and safe.
If the employee who has tested positive is at work he/she will first need to be sent home. Even if the employee is asymptomatic it is important that the employee remains isolated for two weeks. Regardless of whether the employee has any leave remaining or not, the organization needs to ensure that the affected employee remains at home for the entire quarantine period.
The employees need to be assured that there will be no repercussions for being at home due to being tested positive.
The other employees need to be informed through the HRMS Software. This is an important step to ensure that the primary contacts of the affected employee can remain vigilant for any signs of the infection and to get themselves tested if need be. It also ensures that no employee is present in office during their quarantine.
Sanitization and Maintenance of Hygiene at the Premises
Cleaning and sanitizing the workspaces that were possibly used by the employee prior to the diagnosis is very important to ensure that any droplets on any surface are not a source of further infection. Time and fresh air are two very good disinfectants. It is known that the COVID-19 causing virus does not remain on any surface for more than a week.
Therefore it might be a good idea to leave the possibly infected areas vacant for a week. In the event that it is not possible to do so the areas would need to be cleaned chemically. One pertinent point to note here is that the team carrying out the cleaning runs the risk of exposure to the virus as well as the powerful cleaning agents. Therefore it is imperative that they are given personal protective equipment before undertaking the task.
Updated Advice to Employees
It becomes a major duty of the HR team to update employees from time to time with regard to safe practices, maintaining social distance, the importance of testing and vaccination and so on.
The HR system should disseminate this information from time to time so that all employees remain on their guard at all times. While it is important to inform the organization’s payroll about anyone being infected it is also important to protect the privacy of the given individual and the importance of treating him/her with respect at all times.
Determine When an Employee Can Return to Work
Determining when an employee can return to work after he/she has tested positive will be entirely on them being asymptomatic, having mild symptoms or being seriously afflicted which could include hospitalization. With the exception of an employee requiring hospitalization, the normal quarantine period is fourteen (14) days during which time the infection comes down.
It is up to the organization to ascertain when the employee can return to work after the mandatory 14 day quarantine period. An employee who requires hospitalization might take longer to recover and the ability to return to work might take longer.
Several organizations require a negative test report before an employee who had tested positive can return to work.
Educate the workforce about what keeps the COVID19 infection at bay. Information about how they can prevent the spread of infection and keeping themselves and their loved ones safe is always good to disseminate constantly. The importance of sanitizing hands often, washing hands frequently and maintaining social distance are basic requirements to keep the disease at bay.
In this context, arrangements should be made to have sanitizers at all workstations and common areas to prevent the spread of the infection in case there are people who definitely need to work onsite.
HR forms the crux of any organization. It is this department that will be approached first for any clarifications and updates. It is therefore important for the HR team to stay abreast of the happenings around and the latest developments with respect to the pandemic and its spread. Panic arises from lack of information. Therefore keeping up with the goings on around us will empower HR to make better business decisions and serve to quell any fears employees might have about their place in the organization or about the pandemic.
The most worrisome factor of any organization is the effect to the bottom line in case of a total shutdown of the organization. As the world has slowly learnt over the last several months, business in many instances can be conducted virtually. Meetings and presentations can still happen via Zoom or Google Hangouts and so on. Communication can happen over chat and email. Even activities such as Team Building Activities and Recruitment’s will benefit from this kind of virtual work. Since the illness is not transmitted over the internet, employees can continue to work from the safety of their homes virtually
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