Careful v. Practical

“I don’t know how to handle all the possible exposures I’m hearing about from employees. Nothing seems to work for both the employee and my company.”

Your HR Survival Tip

Not surprisingly, companies are receiving more and more reports of employees who may have been exposed. We don’t know of any single solution that will work for everyone but we can tell you what some companies are doing.

It’s important to remember that without COVID symptoms, there is no financial help for the employee from the government. The employee must have symptoms AND be talking with a doctor or getting tested to qualify for the Families First money (emergency paid sick leave for 2 weeks).

There are three primary exposure solutions we’re hearing about but each has a negative:

  • Super Safe — You have an employee who was “possibly exposed” go into self-quarantine for 2 weeks. Give some thought about how many of your employees may be potentially exposed at any one time and that those employees won’t be paid during the quarantine period since they don’t have symptoms. The negative is the employee is unpaid for two weeks and you’re low on headcount that could affect your ability to keep things going. However, this can be a very workable solution if employees can successfully work remotely during the quarantine.
  • Careful But Practical — You have employees who were “possibly exposed” stop working until they can be tested and get the results. Some companies are paying for the testing but not for the time off while waiting for test results. The negative is the waiting time…particularly since we have heard some testing sites are not even allowing an asymptomatic employee to be tested for two weeks. Again, remote work can fill the waiting gap but, if that’s not an option, this is the fastest solution for getting employees back to work while also confirming they aren’t contaminating the other employees or worksite.
  • Practical — Unless an employee is showing symptoms, they keep working. Given the number of “possible exposures” we now have and the multitude of ways we might be exposed going forward, this may not be all bad. Overall, it seems to be the symptomatic people spreading the virus, not the asymptomatic people. The negative is dealing with the fear factor from your other employees who have been or are working around the exposed employee.

Before long, employees may realize there is no advantage in informing employers of possible exposure because they don’t want to go unpaid for even a few days. With only exposure but no symptoms, employees won’t qualify for unemployment (because they can’t work) or state disability (because they aren’t sick). Ironically, if you have and enforce good safety protocols, your employees may be safer at work than at home where they take safety more casually.

There is no perfect answer in the current environment. You need to look at how your business operates and what system would work best for both you and your employees. You may even develop a plan that combines some or all of these solutions. Once you decide what you want to do, write up a protocol so everyone understands that system and follows it. It can help employees believe you care about them if you explain your reasoning for choosing that system.

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