At the start of 2020, none of us could have planned for the huge changes that would change all of our lives by mid-March. The rise of coronavirus, now a global pandemic, has meant that countries around the world have had to take a number of measures to encourage people to socially distance themselves and socially isolate in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease. This has had a profound impact on various areas of our lives besides the purely social. Business and commerce is a huge area that the virus has wreaked havoc with. After all, the virus has impacted employees as well as consumer demand. Here’s a Small Business Guide to COVID-19, the resources available to you and how to best deal with the current situation.
Be Aware of Government Guidelines
It’s absolutely essential that you are aware of current government guidelines to ensure that you are abiding by them while operating your business in order to slow the spread of the virus. This isn’t only for your sake and your employees’ sake. It’s for the sake of the entire US population and the entire world population too. Until everyone works together to contain this virus, it will continue to spread, taking lives and disrupting day to day life. At the moment, guidelines recommend that:
- If you feel sick, stay at home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.
- If your children are sick, keep them at home. Do not send them to school. Contact your medical provider.
- If someone in your household has tested positive for the coronavirus, keep the entire household at home. Do not go to work. Do not go to school. Contact your medical provider.
- If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people.
- If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk (for example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system), stay home and away from other people.
Make sure that not only you are following these rules, but encourage your employees to follow them too. As a small business owner, you’re encouraged to do your part to keep yourself, your employees and your customers safe and healthy. Keep up to date with any changes to these guidelines by keeping an eye on the news and checking in to the official page here.
Follow CDC Guidelines
The CDC, or “Centre for Disease Control and Prevention”, have also been providing guidelines for both members of the public and businesses to help respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19. You can find the complete guide here. Make sure to check back on it regularly to keep up to date with any changes. This guidance aims to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings.
Actively encourage sick employees to stay at home
- Any employees with any symptoms (such as fever, a cough or shortness of breath) should let their supervisor know and stay at home.
- Any employees who are not sick, but who live with someone who is sick or has symptoms should notify their supervisor and stay home.
- These employees should not return to work until at least seven days have passed since symptoms appeared and 3 days have passed since recovery (ie. resolution of fever, coughing has stopped).
Identify how and where employees may be exposed to coronavirus at work
- Any vulnerable individuals (the elderly or those with existing health conditions) should have face to face contact with others minimized and be assigned tasks that allow them to operate at least six feet away from other employees, customers, visitors or other individuals.
Separate sick employees
- Any employees who have symptoms upon arriving at work, or who develop symptoms during the day, should be separated from all other employees and sent home.
- If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, you should alert others who have been in their presence and ensure they self-monitor for symptoms developing themselves.
Educate employees on how to prevent the spread of the virus at work
- Encourage them to wash their hands with soap and water regularly for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content if soap and water aren’t available.
- Avoid touching the face with unwashed hands.
- Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw used tissues in the trash immediately. If no tissue is available, use the inside of the elbow.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects or surfaces. This can include workstations, handrails, doorknobs, door handles, keyboards, telephones and more.
- Practice social distancing. Wherever possible, avoid standing within 6 feet of others.
This is a hard time for everyone and we need to work together to get everyone through this. It is important that you are as flexible as possible with your employees.
- Employees do not require a positive COVID-19 test result to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave or a negative COVID-19 test result to return to work.
- Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible.
- Implement flexible policies where employees can stay home to care for sick relatives or take care of their children to cases of school closures.
- If you do not currently offer sick leave, you should draft non-punitive emergency sick leave policies.
For the next part of our Small Business Guide, Up and Social will focus on the help that is becoming available for small businesses across the nation. The coronavirus has caused unprecedented economic disruption and small businesses everywhere are suffering the consequences. As consumers spend more time at home and go out less to prevent the spread of the virus, businesses are losing sales and profit as a result. In recognition of this, the president signed the CARES act on Friday 27th March 2020. This contains $376 billion of relief for American businesses and workers. You can find your relief options here.
Coronavirus and COVID-19 are creating difficulties for many of us. But hopefully, the above Small Business Guide should help to clear up any confusion and ensure you’re doing the right thing throughout this surreal time!