6 Steps To Take If an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19
1. Offer Support:
We’re all moving fast in this new world an it can feel like we’re flying blind, so this is just a reminder of what you already know: if an employee lets you know they’ve tested positive for COVID-19, take a moment to be there for them. As a leader of your company, there are of course professional limitations of what “being there” means- you won’t be able to offer health advice, that’s for sure- but still, HR is often on the frontlines of tough conversations, and you know from experience to lead with emotional intelligence.
2. Explain your Company’s Policy:
· Ask them to quarantine- meaning self-isolation, not coming into work or working remotely if possible- for at least 10 days. Before ending home isolation, employees should consult CDC guidance.
· Inform them of the enhanced paid sick offered by the Families First Caronavirus Response Act.
· Explain ADA privacy rules: you will not reveal the fact they tested positive to their colleagues, unless instructed to. You should ask them whether their manager/supervisor can know- if not, they should only be told that the employee is on a leave of absence for non-disciplinary reasons.
3. Assess Risk:
Ask the employee about their activity in the 14 days prior to testing positive. Identify the areas of the workplace (or workplaces) the employee spent most of their time and with what colleagues they had close contact—the CDC defines this as being within 6 feet for a prolonged period (usually more than 15 minutes of direct/face-to-face).
You should also establish what clients, vendors or third-parties the employee was in close contact with in the 14 days prior to testing positive. These individuals should be contacted. This shouldn’t be the end of your communication with the sick employees. If possible, you and other senior leaders should call regularly to offer support.
At this point, leadership will have some decisions to make. Suggested Plan of Action:
o Deep clean any area of the workplace in which the employee spent time
o Instruct those who were in close contact with the employee to self-isolate for 10 days
o Inform the rest of your organization (or at least those based in the same workplace)
o If you believe the employee contracted the virus at work, you may need to notify OSHA. You should also consult your local health department to inform them and ask for any best practices in your region.
5. Inform At-Risk Employees:
Inform employees who were in close contact with the employee that you have reason to believe that they were in contact with someone who has since tested positive for COVID-19, without mentioning the affected employee’s name or any easily-identifiable information (such as their job title).
Instruct the at-risk employee to self-isolate for 10 days, tell them to watch out for symptoms and suggest they contact their healthcare provider. If the period self-isolation means they will not be able to work.
Most of all, you should offer your full support and sympathy. If they are currently at work, instruct them to go home as soon as possible.
6. Inform All Employees:
Rumors may spread, so it’s important that the rest of the company (or relevant division/workplace) learn the news from you. Again, do not name the employee who tested positive.
Instead, let employees know what action will be taken and reassure them all that you and the company are doing everything possible to ensure their safety. Encourage everyone to inform the Manager of any question or concerns they may have.
While a (virtual) all-hands meeting is a good venue for this conversation, it’s also important to follow up with an email laying out clearly the steps your company will take.