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How to Return to Work After COVID-19

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Tips to Help Reopen Your Business Post Shutdown and Keep Your Employees Safe and Healthy

About six weeks ago, the entire state of New Jersey, along with most of the tri-state area, faced the start of a government-mandated shutdown. Businesses that were not essential were forced to close their doors to the public. Workers were forced to stay home.

Now as May begins, New Jersey, and its neighbors, are ready to discuss limited reopening. As of May 4, we learned schools will remain closed through the rest of the school year. State parks and golf courses reopened May 2, with social distancing restrictions in place. And as of May 6, 2020, New Jersey extended its social distancing guidelines in businesses an additional 30 days.

However, many businesses are expecting to reopen by the middle of June. The question on most people’s minds (employees and employers alike) is how we can resume business and get employees back to work while staying safe from the dangers of Coronavirus.

Below are several tips to help bring employees back to work without increasing the spread of the disease.

Complete a Deep Cleaning and Disinfecting Process

Before opening your doors to employees or the public, you must disinfect your entire office. This process is not a simple weekly cleaning service type cleaning This cleaning needs to be a deep disinfecting and cleansing process that will remove any traces of germs from every surface, including floors, carpets, windows, and doors.

Many companies are offering this disinfecting service for businesses. Make sure to find a company that includes a checklist for coronavirus germs. Do not reopen your doors until this is complete.

The EEOC Says You Can Ask About Coronavirus-related Health Issues

Typically, the law prevents employers from inquiring about any health issues. You never have to tell your employer you are sick or have a chronic or terminal illness. You don’t even have to tell them you are pregnant.

However, when it comes to the global pandemic that can infect others simply because you breathe, the EEOC is a bit more lenient. Employers are permitted to ask employees about COVID-19 related illnesses and symptoms. They can even insist employees take their temperature when entering the workplace.

Therefore, implement a policy for your business that addresses Coronavirus and when employees may return to work. Include any precautions you may implement. Some precautions may include:

  • All employees must wear masks.
  • Any food service employees must submit to daily temperature readings before starting shifts.
  • Employees in common areas must wear gloves and masks while in the area.
  • If you feel ill during the workday, you must go home immediately.
  • You must be fever-free for at least 72 hours before returning to work.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, you must test negative on two separate occasions before returning to work

Make sure you make your company policies visible to your employees, as well as the FFCRA guidelines for employees.

Do Not Bring Everyone Back at Once

Before bringing your employees back, develop a plan. The CDC set specific recommendations on how to bring back employees and when. The suggestions include staggering returns based on COVID-19 health concerns. They also suggest that reinstating employees should be determined on a case by case basis.

The first thought is to start slowly by reopening the business. Begin with employees that may not require close contact with one another. Then you may wish to bring back some employees that are healthy and may have more interaction with one another. The final set of returning employees are those that have close interaction with one another and possible outside interactions or customer interactions.

Throughout the process, implement the CDC health guidelines.

  1. Employees who were never infected or exposed to Coronavirus

These employees may be the first group to return. They never tested positive for the disease. They had no exposure to the disease. Therefore, they are not a risk to one another or other employees.

  1. Employees Who Tested Positive for COVID-19 and Never Got Ill

These employees present a high risk if they are still positive. They are known as carriers for the disease. Even if they do not show any illness, they have the disease and can infect others. The CDC recommends they return to work only when the following guidelines are met:

  • At least seven days have passed since they tested positive
  • They still have not gotten ill
  • They must stay at least 6 feet away from others for at least three days after lifting quarantine
  • They must always wear a mask over their nose and mouth
  1. Employees Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus, Were Ill But Never Needed Hospitalization

Employees in this category present a lower risk of infesting others after they have recovered from the illness. Since they presented symptoms, they also treated the disease and have been cleared by a doctor. The CDC suggests the following stipulations for their return to work:

  • They have been clear of symptoms for at least three days.
  • They have not had any fevers for at least 72 hours without the use of medication.
  • They can breathe again, with no signs of respiratory issues.
  • There are no symptoms of COVID-19 remaining.
  • They have two COVID-19 tests with negative results.
  1. Employees Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus and Needed Hospitalization

These employees were the most severely affected. As a result, they may be a higher risk of infecting others if they are not fully recovered. The CDC suggests these employees should not return to work until they have been completely recovered and released from their doctor’s care. They must continue to test negative for the Coronavirus several times.

Employers are free to institute stricter health guidelines relating o returning employees and Coronavirus. Maybe you want to insist employees be clear for 14 days, as opposed to 7. You may wish to institute mandatory testing for all returning employees.

Healthcare workers, who are at contact risk of contracting the virus, must adhere to a separate set of CDC guidelines. These guidelines help keep patients and workers safe while still treating the illness head-on.

Staying Safe and Healthy Is Your Number One Goal

While we are all excited to return to work and life outside of the home, staying safe and healthy should always be the first concern. Healthy employees mean higher productivity and a better workforce.

Make sure your employees are aware of their rights if they need to care for themselves or another person with Coronavirus. Make sure they know their rights regarding work and paid leave if their child’s school is still closed. As long as your employees know that you care about them and their families, they will be happy to care about work.

If you would like additional tips regarding reopening after Coronavirus, check out our reopening checklist. To learn more about returning to work and setting up proper protocols, contact the team at WorkplaceHCM at (856) 334-9711.

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