How You Can Manage Illness Outbreaks

The news has been filled lately with reports of the spread of the coronavirus. At first, it was just in China, but then a cruise ship in Japan was quarantined due to the virus. Now, there are cases all over the world, including in the United States.

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An illness outbreak is different from employees getting sick individually and taking their sick days so they don’t spread it around the office. A virus or outbreak like the coronavirus could affect more than just one or two employees. While the coronavirus hasn’t become widespread in the United States, it’s still a good idea to revise your company’s policy when it comes to contagious diseases.

Restrict Work Travel

There are travel advisories in place to many of the countries currently affected by the coronavirus. If there’s a widespread outbreak of any kind, your company may want to rethink asking employees to travel to any areas that are affected. In the case of the coronavirus, this is China and other nearby countries.

For any work-related travel, it’s a good idea to check with the State Department’s website ahead of time for any travel alerts and advisories of any kind that may affect your employees.

Check OSHA Guidelines

If there’s a serious disease outbreak in your area, your employees may be guaranteed the right by OSHA to stay home for their own safety. If your staff fears contracting a contagious disease at work, they may legally be able to stay home without repercussions. If you have any employees that have compromised immune systems, you may be required by law to make accommodations for them. It’s a good idea to research exactly what obligations your company may have and what options your employees may have.

Allow Employees to Work from Home

While it isn’t possible for all companies to allow their staff members to work from home, it can be an excellent solution to a disease outbreak in your area. Employees can remain productive but also remain in their homes, where they can’t infect or be infected by their coworkers. Employees also won’t have to use up their PTO unless they’re too ill to work.

There are many cases in which employees are well enough to work, but should stay home in order to not spread their illness around the office. Allowing them to work from home can keep the rest of your office healthy while and retain productivity.

Require Sick Employees to Stay Home

If you have an employee that gets sick but who comes into work anyway, the company has the option to require them to stay home. Especially with a contagious disease, you don’t want to risk the employee infecting the rest of the office. If that employee really wants to remain productive instead of using PTO, you could consider allowing the employee to work from home instead.

Have a Consistent Policy

It’s essential to keep your contagious disease policy consistent across your entire staff. If your company wants to require employees to stay home, you should determine ahead of time how employees will be paid. Will you require them to take PTO? Will you allow them to work from home? All employees should be treated equally by the policy. It’s also important to make the policy clear from the beginning so employees aren’t surprised by it.

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