Reopening and Employee Health Checks: Short-Term Normal?

In the midst of COVID-19, many employers face challenges as they explore the safest way to reopen. Consider these tips when developing your return to work strategy.

Employer strategies

Reopening and Employee Health Checks: Short-Term Normal?

  • Thomas Schultz
  • 6/15/2020

Key insights

  • A host of employment laws limit the times and types of employee health testing allowed.
  • Consider using a basic COVID-19 employee self-certification to return to work document to affirms basic health levels.
  • Physical distancing, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and clear communication should supplement any health testing actions.

Devising a game plan for reopening?

Talk to Our Team

As you continue planning a return to “normal” operations, you may have questions about testing employee health, physical distancing requirements, employee communications, and more.

You can review detailed guidance in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), May 2020.

Consider the highlights below for safe and compliant reopening.

Implement in-person and virtual health checks

A host of employment laws limit the times and types of testing allowed. And, as of the writing of this article, a COVID-19 test is not available for non-healthcare employers. Here’s what you can do:

  • Employees who have a temperature or who are experiencing coughing or shortness of breath can be asked to seek medical care and can be sent home. Keep in mind, the CDC makes it clear that some people who carry COVID-19 may not have a fever.
  • Perform temperature checks at a frequency that supports the level of monitoring you deem necessary. Keep in mind that testing multiple locations and larger campuses can be a challenge, so you may want to devise a way to reduce the potential volume of tests for people who move from building to building. Common frequencies include once a day; morning, afternoon, and evenings; each time someone enters a building; or some other non-discriminatory frequency.
  • Use a basic COVID-19 employee self-certification to return to work document that affirms basic health levels, including:
    • Date of last fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
    • Respiratory symptoms like cough and shortness of breath

Keep in mind that records about employee illness are considered a confidential medical record and need to be segregated from other employment records to comply with the ADA.

Encourage preventative behaviors

Employ physical distancing and use personal protective equipment (PPE) to supplement any health testing actions. For PPE to be effective, it must be worn properly, maintained, and used as a supplemental step to any engineering and administrative actions taken to protect employees.

Additionally, you can recommend or require the following:

  • Regular and thorough hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub containing at least 60% alcohol
  • If an employee feels sick, stay home
  • Adherence to proper sanitary precautions, which includes covering coughs and sneezes

    Communicate with employees

    Communicate using this simple framework, adapting the words to reflect your company’s culture and style:

      1. Acknowledge current state — Excellent cultures start by noticing the people who make it up.  People want to be heard, so acknowledge what can be acknowledged, without agreeing or contributing speculation.

      a. Example: Many of you have shared concerns about working during these uncertain times.

      2. Share the decision or action — As a leader, you must take a stand, make a decision, and provide a clear path forward. State your plan and reasoning in plain language.

      a. Example: We have a commitment to keep our employees safe so that we can continue to serve our customers.

      3. Discuss future state — Be assertive and clear about what your organization is going to do moving forward.

      a. Example: To continue protecting our employees, we will temperature-test people when they enter the building, enforce physical distancing, require the use of personal protective equipment, and promote good sanitary practices.

    How we can help

    We know you are eager to chart a path forward to find your new normal — and no organization’s return to work will look exactly the same. Our team has the experience to guide you during challenging times like these, whether we help you determine a tailored reopening strategy or help you communicate clearly with your employees.

    Contact Us