The New Normal: Do You Have a COVID-19 Protocol in Place

September 14, 2020
Jay Stafford

man carrying briefcase and mask

Everyone wants the pandemic to be over soon rather than later. Employers have an important role to fill in this regard – the actions they take can significantly limit the spread of the virus while allowing employees to keep earning an income. In order to do this effectively, you need a COVID-19 protocol that establishes routine procedures while also keeping you and your employees safe. Because this concerns what you can and can’t require your employees to do, you should consider consulting with a Maryland employment lawyer.

Keeping Your Employees and Others Safe

The purpose of any COVID-19 protocol is to prevent the spread of infection among your employees and your customers or other third parties. In addition, a reasonable COVID-19 protocol also helps you minimize the impact of the pandemic on your business operations. That said, employers should routinely monitor data concerning the virus in order to ensure that their protocol is a reasonable and commensurate response to current circumstances.

The Principles of a Sound COVID-19 Protocol

For those who are cynical, policies and procedures are nothing more than useless paper. The truth is, however, that your COVID protocol not only protects you against claims but may also actually prevent or at least minimize the spread of the virus. In general, your protocol should do three things: 

  1. Specifically address the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace. If you have more than one location, each location should have its own protocol. Do not simply company a form document or a policy that some other business uses. 
  2. Identify all positions or locations that are at high risk for exposure to COVID-19. You should conduct an assessment of your facilities to determine which areas pose the highest risk of contamination, such as bathrooms, kitchen areas, or other places where employees and customers are likely to congregate.
  3. Establish measures for reducing or eliminating the risk of exposure for employees. This will be the core of your protocol and should be given careful consideration. 

We recognize how challenging it can be to implement change, but it should go without saying that the protocol should be followed by employees and enforced by management. An experienced Maryland employment lawyer can help you make sure your efforts to prevent the spread of the virus are consistent with state and federal law. 

Health Screening

One of the measures you should consider is implementing some sort of in-person health check before employees or other parties enter your facility. This can include asking if they are experiencing any COVID-related symptoms as well as conducting temperature checks. If you decide to conduct temperature checks, we recommend that you use a contactless thermometer. Employees conducting the screening should be properly trained to ensure that the training is effective. Be aware, however, that some employees may be reluctant to submit to questions or a temperature check. A Maryland employment lawyer can help you navigate these situations. 

Cleaning and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Your protocols should identify which areas will need to be frequently cleaned in order to avoid spreading the virus. Common areas where employees gather or bathrooms are obvious examples but think carefully about which areas will need to be cleaned throughout the workday. 

You also need to consider which employees will need PPE such as masks, gloves, and face shields. Someone who spends their workday alone in an office will not need the same level of protection as someone who is in constant contact with the public. 

Of course, you will need to train on your employees on how and when areas should be cleaned as well as how PPE should be worn. Again, the goal is to limit the spread of the virus as much as possible. If the protocols aren’t followed or employees don’t know what to do, your efforts will be ineffective. 

Encourage Sick Employees to Stay Home

Many employees are inclined to come into work unless they absolutely can’t. While this is admirable in other circumstances, employees who are not feeling well should stay home so long as we are dealing with the pandemic. Your protocols should require employees to notify their supervisor if they are experiencing any symptoms and allow them to stay at home until they test negative or have completed the self-quarantine period.  

Of course, many employees come to work because of rigid leave policies or out of fear that too many absences will be negatively perceived by their employer. To that end, you should ask a Maryland employment lawyer to review your leave policies to ensure that they are not discouraging people from spreading the virus. Some of the features that your leave policy should include are as follows: 

  • Flexible sick leave and allowing employees to work remotely whenever possible
  • Allowing employees to take leave to care for a sick family member
  • Allowing employees to take leave if another person in their household has tested positive for COVID-19

Contact a Maryland Employment Lawyer for Help

Keeping your employees and your customers safe involves several complicated legal issues. Maryland employment lawyer J.W. Stafford can help you develop a COVID protocol that limits the spread of the virus while also protecting your business. To schedule an appointment, contact us today at 410-514-6099.