Employer Guidelines for the Coronavirus

Although much is unknown about how COVID-19 spreads, we can use our current knowledge of similar coronaviruses to create guidelines for businesses and employers.

Coronaviruses are a diverse family of viruses that are common in humans and different animal species. However, animal coronaviruses can occasionally crossover and infect people, similar to  MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. The virus that causes COVID-19 originated in China and new reports of cases are constantly appearing across the globe.

The following guideline may help prevent workplace exposures to COVID-19.

Actively encourage sick employees to stay home

  • Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines. Employees should immediately notify their supervisor  if they are sick.
  • Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and make sure employees are aware of  your policies.
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for sick employees to validate their illness or to return to work. Healthcare offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide documentation.
  • Maintain flexible policies that allow employees to stay home to care for a sick family member.
  • The  CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms at work should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene

  • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene.
  • Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles.
  • Instruct employees to clean their hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95 percent alcohol or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees.

Advise employees before traveling

  • Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms before traveling.
  • If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care.  A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services.

Additional Measures in Response to COVID-19

  • Employees who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
  • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the ADA.