In early April, the Massachusetts Department of Health created and shared reminders on how to protect yourself, your family, and your community from Covid-19 with updated pdfs, links, and graphics. The conversations about COVID, masks, mandates and pandemics are not easing up, even as case numbers for COVID go down across Barnstable County. As we all come to the realization that this topic is never going away, workplaces are updating their employee handbooks and workplace policies related to COVID. If your business hasn’t yet, then maybe now is a good time to have a conversation with someone in HR.
The COVID Rollercoaster
Surge after surge, wave after wave, businesses have been put through their paces. Keeping up with public safety guidelines and industry specific limitations is a ton of work. For some of us, myself included through my work at another Chamber, COVID mandated changes to business were all encompassing for well over a year. It felt like all some of were able to keep up with from March 2020 to May 2021. We pivot one way, then we pivot another way, then we stop pivoting and start doing the hokey pokey because we don’t really know which way is up anymore.
We all know the rollercoaster ride isn’t over yet.
A workplace COVID policy will make the rollercoaster ride a lot smoother by creating clarity even as CDC, state, and county guidelines change in response to COVID case numbers. Policies give employees guidance on how to respond to their own situations if they are exposed to someone with COVID or feel symptoms. Good policies also give employers clarity on how to respond if guidance is not followed.
The purpose of the policy, then, is to make sure everyone in your company or organization is using the same information, resources, or tools to make decisions about their health and the wellbeing of others.
Creating a New Policy?
If your company handbook doesn’t already have a pandemic policy, then it is absolutely time for an update. Turn to your Human Resources employee if you have one. They should know where to look for sample policies. I’ve shared some helpful links at the bottom of this article that might help too. If your company doesn’t have a Human Resources employee either (many of us don’t!) they try seeking guidance from other businesses. We recommend Cape Cod Chamber members who specialize in human resources like BizChecks Payroll or Complete Payroll Solutions; or consult an employment law specialists like Tocci & Lee, LLC.
Updating an Existing Policy?
It’s still a great idea to consult someone who specializes in Human Resources when updating your existing policy. This blog post doesn’t count as expert advice!
Make sure your updated policy is clear on whose issued guidelines for quarantine, isolation, masking, and testing your company will follow going forward so your employees know where to look for changes to the rules. Will you rely on county, state, or CDC guidelines for example? By referring to a governing health organization, you avoid having to update your workplace COVID policy every time someone else makes a change to their guidelines.
Share all of your final changes with your employees. It’s important that these changes are seen and understood by everyone in the company or organization. Policies are no good if no one knows about them in the first place.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use some of the resources below to help you navigate this important workplace policy creation or update.
Resources for Updating Workplace COVID Policies:
• The CDC have created a “Quarantine and Isolation Calculator” to help us all figure out just when and for how long to isolate after exposures or positive test results.
• Massachusetts recently shared updated graphics and messaging for COVID safety.
• Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment have a COVID-19 Resource Center, updated daily.
• OSHA have created a COVID-19 Plan Template.
• The CDC created a guide for businesses on how to create safe workplaces.
• SHRM created and shared an entire Toolkit of policies related to COVID-19.