The COVID-19 outbreak has turned the world on its head for small business owners. Since 2020, ever-changing regulations have made it challenging to keep “business as usual.”
You may have had an employee come to you complaining about headaches, a chest cough, sneezing, a runny nose, or body aches. They may be running a fever.
“COVID-19”? You think… “It can’t be.” But it can, and you’re rightfully concerned for the well-being of your employees and customers.
The COVID-19 outbreak has had a lot of small business owners scratching their heads. Don’t panic – we’ve put together the following information to help you learn how you can deal with changing COVID-19 regulations in your workplace.
What Should You Do if an Employee Has COVID-19 Symptoms?
The CDC recommends that anyone with flu-like symptoms, fever, cough, or shortness of breath stay home from work.
If an employee comes to work with symptoms of an illness, you should ask them to stay home to keep that illness from spreading and affecting the rest of your workforce. However, you are not legally required to do this.
What if an Employee Has Been Exposed to Someone with COVID-19?
Although the CDC previously recommended that someone exposed to another person with COVID-19 stay away from work or school for ten days, it now recommends a quarantine of at least five days after their last interaction if they had not recently had COVID or are not up-to-date on their vaccinations.
The virus can spread before someone knows they have it or exhibits symptoms, so isolating after a suspected exposure can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Should I Ask Employees to Show a Positive COVID-19 Test Result?
As an employer, you should not require a COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to validate an employee’s illness, qualify for sick leave, or return to work. Keep in mind that tests may be expensive for uninsured and underinsured employees, or tests may be difficult to access if your area is experiencing a surge in cases.
However, if an employee is out sick for multiple days and has no medical documentation indicating the reason for absence, you can request verification from the employee.
You can ask for a signed letter from a healthcare provider or the employee’s designated healthcare provider within three days of the time the employee is expected to return to work.
How Should Your Business Respond to a Confirmed COVID-19 Case?
You’ll want to sanitize all spaces where someone was sick with COVID-19 as soon as possible to prevent the spread of germs throughout your building. If there is no sign of illness from a sick person who visited your office within the last 24 hours, you can likely clean normally without taking extra precautions.
If you have any areas like kitchens, break rooms, or restrooms where people congregate, disinfecting those areas is also important. It can help to implement policies that encourage handwashing among employees to avoid the spread of germs.
Should My Employees Wear Masks?
Depending on the state in which your business is located, you may or may not be required to ask your employees to wear masks while working.
For example, Oregon continues to require masks indoors, but Florida does not. For a list of current mask requirements by state, please click here. Where there are no state or local requirements, a mask policy is up to the discretion of the businesses or private entity.
Should I Require Vaccinations for My Employees?
The Supreme Court recently ruled against a vaccine mandate for large employers with over 100 employees, except for the health care industry. No matter how many employees you have, your small business is probably not obligated to require employees to be vaccinated.
There are exceptions if you work in health care, deal with Medicare or Medicaid, or are a subcontractor working for a large federal contractor.
However, OSHA strongly encourages you to make it easy for your employees to be vaccinated by providing paid time off for them to get the vaccine and recover from any side effects. They also suggest considering adopting a policy requiring vaccination or weekly COVID-19 tests for your employees. Should you need help in drafting such a policy, the HR team at Focus is here to help.
Should I Keep Records of Employee Vaccinations?
Contrary to some popular rumors, HIPAA does not prevent you from asking your employees about their vaccination status. You can ask employees if they have or have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. One thing you should not do, however, is ask employees if they plan to be vaccinated.
You are also allowed to ask your employees for documentation of a COVID-19 vaccination. If you do so, you should keep these records in a single file in a secure location.
When Should an Employee with a Suspected or Confirmed Case of COVID-19 Return to Work?
When your employee tests positive for COVID-19 and shows symptoms, you should ask them to stay home for at least five days after they began feeling ill. If your employee has a fever, they should wait for 24 hours after it subsides without the aid of fever-reducing medication to consider ending isolation and returning to work.
If your employee tests positive but does not show symptoms for COVID-19 (asymptomatic), they should stay home from work for at least five days after testing positive. If symptoms begin after they test positive, they should begin their isolation period again and remain at home for at least five additional days.
At Focus HR, we specialize in helping small businesses like yours use best practices in the workplace to promote health and happiness among your employees.
If you’re looking for HR solutions that function smoothly and give you peace of mind, schedule a free consultation by filling out the form below. We’ll set you up with an HR partner dedicated to helping your business succeed.