Steps to Health and Safety for Employees During the Coronavirus

HR leaders can take steps now to help employees stay safe, healthy and protected.

Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), a flu-like virus that emerged from Wuhan, China is now considered a global health emergency. The Coronavirus was announced as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization on 30 January. While 99% of reported cases are in mainland China, the virus has been emerging internationally. Concern surrounding its spread is leading many to evaluate the measures necessary to stay safe and healthy. HR leaders and employers can take crucial steps to help protect the safety and health of their employees.

Communication is key

First is to understand and communicate the facts in an accurate and timely manner. Make available clear and thorough communication to employees about the nature of the outbreak and effective ways to stay healthy. Be sure to use only credible sources of information such as the Centers for Disease Control to educate employees about the virus and healthy ways to avoid it. Use multiple communication channels, such as emails, intranets, bulletins, and other media.

Accommodations for travelers

Employers may need to make accommodations for some employees, such as those recently returning from China, those expected to travel internationally soon, as well as employees who are older, pregnant, or have immunodeficiencies. Instituting flexible working arrangement can allow those closest to the virus to continue working without added exposure to the virus. Some employers may need to adjust their leave policies for travelling employees feeling ill. Above all, it’s important to avoid stoking employees’ fear or isolate them against their will. Instead, employers should provide options that ensure health and safety in a positive and reasoned manner.

Employers should provide options that ensure health and safety in a positive and reasoned manner.
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How This Impacts Mobility

Mobility professionals, businesses with international staff, and employees on international travel will also need to stay on top of travel and visa restrictions. Currently travel to and from China is quite restricted, with most major airlines cancelling flights to and from the region. Major airports around the world are also establishing checkpoints where travelers may have to undergo a health screening. Wuhan, which has a high number of foreign workers, is experiencing a travel lockdown and some foreign nationals have already repatriated. Visa processing delays are likely as visa appointments are cancelled and visa processing centers shutting down.

Taking these important steps of educating and assisting employees can help protect employees’ health and safety and demonstrate the value companies place on the well-being of their workforce—important to recruitment and retention.

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