Devan Moonsamy from the ICHAF Training Institute takes a look at how employers should respond when an employee tests positive for COVID-19.
South Africa (29 July 2020) – South Africa is seeing a rapid increase in the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. The numbers have surpassed the 450 000 mark and continue to climb daily sending panic to South Africans.
Right now, the numbers are turning to names of people we know who are infected. This is both terrifying and worrying as we continue with our day to day. We have also seen the education unions calling on schools to be closed to ensure that staff and learners are home as the numbers grow.
As much as that might be a relief to parents and families of children and teachers it is a concern to other industries who are seeing more and more people testing positive for the virus.
One of the biggest concerns which I have addressed previously is the stigma in the workplace around the virus. But what about how employees handle the news of a possible positive case of the virus.
When an employee notifies you that they have the virus or have come into contact with someone who does, instead of spreading panic initiate a deep cleaning and sanitizing of the building. This will allow you and the staff member’s time to be in isolation and then get tested should there be visible signs of the virus.
When this period is complete and staff are returning to the office ensure you have a great deal of social and physical distancing. Create separate workspaces and spread people out all over the offices.
Ensure that masks are worn at all times in the office. Provide sanitizers around the building and ensure that staff are aware that it must be used. Get the cleaning team to clean the offices every afternoon with proper care.
Provide regular information on steps that should be taken should someone feel like they have the virus. We also should be mindful that this is flu season, staff members who are showing signs of flu should be encouraged to stay home to prevent them from being exposed to more people with a strained immune system.
We have to accept that the virus is around and we can either take the steps and work with it or choose to close business and risk job loss.
At the same time, we need to understand the predicament our staff are in. We need to make them feel comfortable to talk to us about concerns they have around the virus. In fact, if they choose to work from home and this is a possibility we must be open to it.
We should not look at having a positive case as a disaster in the office but rather a chance to come together and still keep the wheel turning.