The number of positively diagnosed cases of coronavirus – declared by the World Health Organization as a “public health emergency of international concern” – are steadily rising up across India. As the government fights to control the pandemic of Covid-19, there are a few steps that individual employers and employees can take to mitigate the spread of this virus and ensure that the workplace remains a safe place.
Assemble a Coronavirus Emergency Response Team
Employers can put together a task force for emergency dealing with spread and effects of coronavirus at the workplace. This emergency team can be put in charge of the plan of action of the particular establishment in tackling the outbreak. The team, on their part, must come up with a comprehensive plan, which can incorporate safety measures such as thermal screenings for all including visitors, proper communication channels, etc.
Let your employees be informed
Mass hysteria and panic over this virus comes as no surprise in the day and age of misinformation on social media. It is important that the workforce be informed, educated and updated with relevant facts and figures regarding the disease. The Human Resource Department can undertake the responsibility of circulating emails and notifications amongst the workers containing the latest developments related to the disease.
Encourage work from home as a primary mode of working
According to experts, the only way to combat the virus is to delay it’s spread and therefore, human interactions must be limited. Social distancing is being promoted all over the world with many states undergoing lockdowns and prohibiting public gatherings. Employers must actively encourage people to work from home and visit office only the need be.
Implement Thermal Screening at Workplaces
It is the duty of the employer to make the workplace as safe as possible. Thermal screening is a process which allows one to see the variations in body temperature. Such screening can be introduced at workplace entrances to test every individual as well as visitor to see if anyone is exhibiting fever-like symptoms and if so, they can be excused from work or quarantined till further arrangements are made.
Reinforce Sanitary Measures
Encourage employees to practice good hygiene and follow the guidelines circulated by the World Health Organization which includes, but is not limited to, the proper method of washing hands, cleansing, disinfecting, etc. Sanitizers must be kept at every table and entrance, as well as with the guards, office attendants, etc. Adequate posters or sign boards on prompt washing of hands and usage of sanitizers should be put up on notice boards, lifts and washrooms.
Allow sick-leaves promptly
In case anyone starts to show symptoms, they must be told to disclose the same to the office in-charge as soon as possible. Although there is no law to grant leaves to an infected employee, apart from what is contractually agreed and statutorily mandated. However, given the rapidly communicable nature of the virus, it is strongly recommended that the employer must ensure prompt approval of leaves if anyone starts to show symptoms.
Deep clean office surfaces & restock supplies
It is vital that thorough and deep cleaning of the surfaces of the office be done daily to reduce the risks. Moreover, this is high time to reevaluate the supply of basic hygienic and sanitizing products at the office. Provide hand sanitizers and masks at every work-station, ensure that the washrooms have fully stocked soap and tissue dispensers, etc.
Quarantine potentially exposed Employees
It is also advised to quarantine employees returning from countries who are designated at stage 3 by WHO, even if no symptoms are seen. When deciding whether to quarantine any employees, employers may need to address how to compensate such employees, particularly those who cannot work remotely during the quarantine period. Generally, subject to any contractual obligations that an employer may have, employers are permitted to require employees to use paid time off, provided that they do not work during that time.
Reschedule Business Travel
The employers must put the health and safety of the workers before the profits and losses of the business. All efforts must be made to postpone and reschedule business travels to high risk zones. Off-site meetings should be dealt with alternatively by methods of e-correspondence. Employees should also be suggested to limit personal travel so as to reduce the risk of transmission.
Long Term Considerations:
In summation, being prepared and alert can go a long way in suppressing the spread of this disease. As the nature and longevity of this outbreak cannot be resolutely predicted, comprehensive long-term plans need to be drawn up for workplaces. It is necessary that the business stay afloat in the current market and to save it from extreme disruption, the management needs to plan ahead keeping in mind the legal rights of the workers, their health, any union related matters, etc. This will benefit the employers and employees alike by creating a clear and distinct path into the future of the company in dealing with the pandemic, as it develops.