In the two months since COVID-19 first appeared in central China, the novel coronavirus has made more than 100,000 ill, rattled markets and led to a run on face masks. Now that the coronavirus has spread to every continent except Antarctica, U.S. employers are taking a hard look at their strategies for dealing with the outbreak.
According to Colorado-based employment attorneys and HR experts, lots of companies already have at least a rudimentary plan to keep workers healthy and business chugging along. But smaller businesses, especially, might be wondering where to start. Holland & Hart partner Steve Gutierrez said it’s common for mid-size and large companies to have some form of pandemic plan, especially if they have broad exposure to the public or employees who travel. They’re typically a written set of objectives on how to respond, he added, and they’re often based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and local health departments.
Elizabeth Chilcoat, an associate at Sherman & Howard, said, “My sense is that the larger the business, or the more likely that the business is to deal with a vulnerable population, the more likely they are to have done comprehensive planning.” That can include planning for various illnesses, whether or not they rise to the level of a pandemic.
The components of a plan tend to fall into three categories, according to Chilcoat. The first is what to do if employees get sick, including whether to quarantine and how to notify workers of their risk. A second is how to keep the business running if employees can’t come in to work. And the third part “involves some amount of risk assessment and determining when you’re going to put the first two pieces into play,” she said.