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Coronavirus in the Workplace - More Tips for Employers

Review Your IT /Technology Policies

  • Infrastructure check: Review the availability of laptops and the capacity of your remote access technologies to accommodate more people working from home.  
  • Ensure your data is secure and that confidential information is protected: As more employees use their own or work-issued devices to access office networks from home, provide clear instructions on how to use your remote systems, and make sure your IT policy that covers the use of these devices is up-to-date.
  • Beware of increased cyber threats: Hackers are using malicious file attachments/links disguised as legitimate content about coronavirus in phishing scams. Remind your workforce to avoid clicking on any unsolicited or suspicious links sent to them. When seeking information, go directly to official sources such as the CDC, the World Health Organization, and OSHA.

Consider the Use of Pay Cards and Electronic Funds Delivery (Direct Deposit)

It may be useful to offer employees a convenient alternative to going to the office to pick up their paycheck or visiting a bank or check cashing facility. Pay cards can be used like a debit card, avoiding the need to handle cash and coins. Check with an HR legal advisor before implementing the use of pay cards, as laws vary by state.

Communicate Your Company’s Health and Wellness Offerings

If your employees participate in a company-sponsored medical plan, make sure employees know about all support services available to members. Providers such as Aetna, Teladoc, CVS Health, Health Advocate, and others offer valuable services such as telemedicine and prescription refills for maintenance medications, and various Employee Assistant Program (EAP) support resources.

Risk Management and Workers’ Compensation Guidance

What happens if an employee acquires COVID-19 and believes they acquired the virus at work – is this covered by workers’ compensation?

It depends. Workers’ compensation is governed by state law, and all 50 states have different provisions regarding whether a disease is an occupational disease and thus covered under the workers’ compensation policy.

The state where the employee/employer is located, the type of work the employee performs and the nature of work provided will have an impact. In most states, front-line healthcare professionals and first responders may have coverage under the workers’ compensation policy if they indicate that they acquired the disease while at work. For all other employees, in most states, they will need to provide proof that the work environment placed them at a greater risk for acquiring the disease, or that there was something “peculiar” about the work environment that placed them at a higher risk of exposure than the general public.

If an employee notifies their employer that they have the disease and they believe they acquired it at work, the employer should file a claim with their workers’ compensation carrier immediately and allow the insurance professionals to determine whether the claim is covered by workers’ compensation laws. 

Guidance from OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide a work environment that is free from hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

OSHA has developed interim guidance to help prevent worker exposure to COVID-19. Other best practices for prevention:

  • Reinforce that employees wash their hands and use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Evaluate the cleanliness of the work environment and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Institute social distancing policies and use virtual resources for meetings.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

For ongoing guidance on the risks of infection and prevention of exposure to COVID-19, employers should closely monitor global, federal, state, and local agency resources and keep their employees and clients informed, often.