With cases steadily rising, just in time for upcoming holiday travel, now is the time to take a second look at your company travel guidelines to protect the workplace. This article will discuss how companies can stop the spread of respiratory illness within the work environment and keep their employees safe.
Coronavirus – Current Scenario & Risks:
It‘s been more than eight months since the COVID-19 pandemic shook the entire world and got hold in the United States. While most employers enforced remote working initially, many have now opted to return, following the reopening of most cities, counties, and states.
In anticipation of rapidly accelerating COVID-19 cases, following the upcoming holiday travel season, this presents a dangerous scenario all employers must prepare for.
Apart from contracting the disease en-route, you may be exposed to the virus at a family gathering or small, indoor holiday event. This interactive website with real-time event risk-assessment reveals how a small or large gathering can accelerate the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Image Source: Biosci.Gatech.Edu
Steps To Maintain A Safe Workspace After Holiday Travel Season:
Employers can enforce rules to maintain safe workspaces when employees travel domestically or internationally in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. While eliminating the risk of COVID-19 outbreak at the office may seem impossible, following some strict guidelines may minimize the risk. Before imposing any rules associated with employee travel, employers should consult with their employment counsel and legal advisors.
Why Are People Traveling Despite Of The Risk?
America is now experiencing a new wave of infections with daily case numbers higher than ever. With the upcoming holiday season, increased travel should be anticipated as a desire for a change of scenery and visitation with much-missed loved ones occur. Such scenarios will pose a workplace challenge if appropriate mitigation and population health surveillance measures are not implemented. Our Axiom Medical team has these tips and suggestions to help employers manage and maintain workplace safety after employee holiday travel.
Promote COVID-19 Company Travel Guidelines At Workplace:
Inquiring About Employees‘ Personal Travel:
Guidance from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) explains how traveling increases the risk of contracting COVID-19. To avoid this, staying at home is highly recommended. As an employer, you may significantly limit nonessential work-related travel and encourage employees to stay home after a personal trip. While some employers may consider restricting their employees‘ personal travel, it is not a recommended choice.
However, employers can always encourage employees to follow CDC recommendations and follow state and local guidelines when traveling.
- Promote workplace safety through best practices.
- Educate employees about CDC guidelines and recommendations
- Implement employee pre-screening health attestations procedures to assess for symptoms or potential exposures, prior to allowing access to the workplace. Further, employers can promote safe practices while traveling, including wearing a mask, hand washing and sanitizing, social distancing, etc.
Remote Working Options After Travel:
Considering the lengthy disease onset of COVID-19, CDC recommends isolation following holiday travel, whenever possible. Employers should allow employees to work remotely during their 14–day isolation. If remote work is not feasible, employers can work closely with their employees to create a safe return to work plan followed by a screening/testing.
Requiring Returning Employees to Self-Quarantine:
While not mandatory, but it may be advisable for the employees to self-quarantine after their travel ends. Considering the risks associated with travel, employers may also enforce self-quarantine after an out-of-state trip, before allowing access to the workplace. Based on your local travel guidelines, restrictions, and requirements, employers may implement remote working if they arrive from a state with a high COVID-19 positivity rate.
Provide Negative Test Results:
Based on specific states’ guidelines, if you present a recent negative COVID-19 test, you can be exempted from a mandatory quarantine requirement. However, a person exposed to the virus may not exhibit symptoms for several days. Even with a negative COVID-19 test, employers can impose post-travel quarantine recommendations before considering access to the workplace. Before enforcing such company travel guidelines, employers must always follow local and state policies to avoid law violations.
Pre-screening Before Returning To Worksite:
Employers may also consider requiring employees returning from holiday travel to complete health surveys or health attestations. Axiom Medical’s CheckIn2Work is a similar app that helps employers confirm that their employees are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
Workplace COVID-19 Testing:
Onsite COVID-19 testing helps employers manage their workforce health easily. Mobile labs and onsite clinics are feasible options for workplace employee testing.
Flexible PTO Policy:
Further, employers should consider reviewing their company‘s paid-time-off and leave policies, considering the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the remote working schedule, employees may have used less PTO this year, leading to increased employee PTO requests for leave at the end of the year. This is particularly true if the employer has use-it-of-lose-it vacation policies. With a flexible PTO policy, employees will not forfeit unused PTO and use it next year when things may get back to normal.
Unfortunately, the inevitable increase in COVID-19 cases coincides with personal holiday travel across the United States. To keep the workplace safe and control workplace disease spread, employers should implement company travel guidelines and best practices that comply with CDC guidelines and their local and state requirements. These policies should be sent out to each employee and applied uniformly to all. Further, as with any employment and leave policy, companies should be transparent and effectively communicate their newest travel and return-to-work policies. With such collaborative efforts, employers can protect their workspace and workforce throughout the pandemic.