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Employee Experience

If an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19, Here’s What to Do

Workforce Communication Letter: Employee Tests Positive For Coronavirus

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Rates of Covid-19 are rising across the country, and no matter where you are, you need to have a plan in place for if and when an employee gets sick or tests positive. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide on how your company should proceed if one of your employees tests positive for Coronavirus, based on the latest guidance from the CDC.

6 Steps To Take If an Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

1. Offer Support

We’re all moving fast in this new world and it can feel like we’re flying blind, so this is just a reminder of what you already know: if an employee lets you know they’ve tested positive for COVID-19, take a moment to be there for them. As a leader of your company, there are of course professional limitations of what “being there” means—you won’t be able to offer health advice, that’s for sure—but still, HR is often on the frontlines of tough conversations, and you know from experience to lead with emotional intelligence.

2. Explain Your Company’s Policy

Don’t have one? This is a pretty good start:

  1. Ask them to quarantine –meaning self-isolation, not coming into work or working remotely if possible—for at least 10 days. Before ending home isolation, employees should consult CDC guidance.
  2. Inform them of available PTO and sick leave options, most importantly the enhanced paid sick leave offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. (Of course, if the employee can work remotely, they may not require sick leave. In any case, it’s good for them to know that sick leave is there for them if they need it now or over the course of the 14+ days.)
  3. Explain ADA privacy rules: you will not reveal the fact they tested positive to their colleagues, unless instructed to. You should ask them whether their manager/supervisor can know—if not, they should only be told that the employee is on a leave of absence for non-disciplinary reasons.

3. Assess Risk

Ask the employee about their activity in the 14 days prior to testing positive. Identify the areas of the workplace (or workplaces) the employee spent most of their time and with what colleagues they had close contact—the CDC defines this as being within 6 feet for a prolonged period.

You should also establish what clients, vendors or third-parties the employee was in close contact with in the 14 days prior to testing positive. These individuals should be contacted.This shouldn’t be the end of your communication with the sick employees. If possible, you and other senior leaders should call regularly to offer support.

4. Take Action

At this point, leadership will have some decisions to make. Unless your whole team works remotely (and has for at least 14 days), here’s what you must do:

  1. Deep clean any area of the workplace in which the employee spent time
  2. Instruct those who were in close contact with the employee to self-isolate for 14 days
  3. Inform the rest of your organization (or at least those based in the same workplace)
  4. If you believe the employee contracted the virus at work, you may need to notify the OSHA

Remember—facts on the ground are rapidly changing, so before making decisions, get expert advice. Find the latest news using the Top 10 Coronavirus sources you can trust. You should also consult your local health department to inform them and ask for any best practices in your region.

5. Inform At-Risk Employees

Inform employees who were in close contact with the employee that you have reason to believe that they were in contact with someone who has since tested positive for COVID-19, without mentioning the affected employee’s name or any easily-identifiable information (such as their job title).

Instruct the at-risk employee to self-isolate for 14 days, tell them to watch out for symptoms and suggest they contact their healthcare provider. If the period self-isolation means they will not be able to work, they should be placed on paid sick-leave, either under company policy or using the new emergency sick leave package offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Most of all, you should offer your full support and sympathy. If they are currently at work, instruct them to go home as soon as possible.

6. Inform Employees

Rumors may spread, so it’s important that the rest of the company (or relevant division/workplace) learn the news from you. Again, do not name the employee who tested positive.

Instead, let employees know what action will be taken and reassure them all that you and the company are doing everything possible to ensure their safety. Encourage everyone to inform HR of any question or concerns they may have.

While a (virtual) all-hands meeting is a good venue for this conversation, it’s also important to follow up with an email laying out clearly the steps your company will take.

Get Customizable Sample Communication to Employees

During a crisis, you need calm and effective communication. That’s why Paycor is sharing a customizable sample communication to send to your team if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.