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Even as COVID-19 cases start to decrease in some states, the lingering threat of having an employee fall ill can still have a big effect on your business operations.

Warehouses, office buildings, and businesses all over America have started to take precautions for workers to return to their jobs safely, as shutdown restrictions are slowly eased. In many of these cases, businesses are choosing to check their staff directly at the door – temperature checks are often mandatory in many jobs that require interaction with the public, or at least close proximity to your coworkers, and in more extreme cases some companies are resorting to things like mandatory antibody checks.

Even if your business is starting to take these precautions, however, one lingering question remains: what do you do if an employee comes in sick?

 

How to Handle Sick Employees During COVID-19

Despite your best efforts and precautions, there still exists the possibility of one of your workers falling ill in the post-COVID era. It may not even be related to coronavirus, but any illness these days (and likely well into the future) will need to be treated with the appropriate amount of seriousness and concern.

Whether an employee fails a temperature check when they try to come into the office, someone calls off for not feeling well, or – perhaps worst – someone tries to ‘power through’ their shift even when they’re displaying pretty obvious symptoms of some kind, you need to have a plan in place to protect both the sick employee, their coworkers, your inventory, and your environment.

 

The first thing to do is to send the sick employee home. A number of federal laws and statutes, such as OSHA and the CDC, have guidelines in place for when to send a worker home (and to protect your ability to do so, in the event that the worker insists nothing is wrong). Typically, anyone displaying obvious symptoms of a cold or flu should be sent home as to not infect their fellow workers or contaminating any of the product they may come in contact with.

 

Next, you’ll want to review their work areas for disinfection. No matter how serious the illness may or may not have been, the areas they tend to work in should be a priority for cleaning and sanitizing to minimize the risk of the illness spreading. Wipe down whatever pallet racks or warehouse shelves they might’ve come in contact with, and make sure that any tools or supplies they may have used are wiped down as well. (This is a good habit to get into one way or another, but it’s an especially crucial step to take right after an employee comes in sick.)

 

Depending on the severity of the illness, you may want to open communication with your employees about it. There’s a fine line to walk here – there’s strict laws about sharing details of your employees’ health history with others, but if someone in your workplace had a communicable illness, it’s right to let your staff know so they understand the risks and potential hazards of coming into contact with someone that may be carrying a bug around they don’t want to be affected by.

 

Finally, you need to remember to display leadership and empathy. Nobody wants to be sent home from work, no matter how sick they are, and remaining sympathetic to your employee’s needs and concerns will help maintain their trust and loyalty. Above this, you should work to set an example for your staff by holding yourself to the same standards – if you’re not feeling good, you should stay home to show the rest of your team that it’s okay to just take a day off if you’re not feeling well.

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