How Should Multinational Employers Respond to the Coronavirus?
We’ve blogged about legal translation services for multinational employers from English to Chinese, French, Japanese, German, Korean, Russian, Italian, Vietnamese, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, and other foreign languages. Things that cannot be seen are usually what often causes the most concern. And, unfortunately, as of the writing of this blog there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to the virus technically named COVID-19, but commonly called “the coronavirus.”
That said, as the numbers of cases keeps increasing worldwide, there is useful, effective information for employers to follow when it comes to keeping the workplace safe. In this blog, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions with regard to how an employer should appropriately respond to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
By employing these steps, and ensuring that your strategies for minimizing the spread of the virus are communicated to your linguistically and culturally diverse employees in your locations throughout the world, you will know that you are doing what is necessary to protect your workforce.
What Are the Basic Responsibilities of Employers?
In general, and this is true in most countries throughout the world, an employer has an obligation to keep the workplace safe for its employees. That means taking reasonable care to provide and maintain a safe place of work for employees, and to avoid exposing employees to any unnecessary risk.
It must be noted that the standard is one of a reasonable duty of care, not an absolute duty of care. In other words, employers have the duty to avoid foreseeable risk to their employees.
What Should an Employer Do if an Employee Has Symptoms of the Virus?
It would be advisable for employers to actively encourage sick employees to stay at home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness should remain at home and not come into work until they are free of (i) fever (which is a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), (ii) signs of a fever, and (iii) any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the aid of fever-reducing medications.
Employers should also ensure that their sick-leave policies are flexible to account for the coronavirus outbreak. Given that we are still learning about the virus and its effects in real time, employers should be able to keep their policies consistent with the current public health guidance available.
One example of flexibility would be to temporarily do away with a requirement that an employee obtain a doctor’s note to remain out of work for more than a specified number of days. That is particularly important if an employee appears to be sick with an acute respiratory illness.
Finally, if an employee appears to be sick upon arrival at work or becomes sick during the workday, the employer should separate the employee from other employees and send the employee home immediately.
What Are the Rules Regarding Paying Workers Who Are Out Sick?
Employers in the United States, particularly smaller employers, are generally not obligated to pay hourly workers who are out sick, unless those workers use whatever sick or vacation time is available to them under company policies. Indeed, the Fair Labor Standards Act only requires that hourly workers be paid for the time they work.
That, however, does not mean that employers do not have an option to provide sick employees with pay for time out of work. According to the New York Times, 68 percent of employers recently surveyed reported that they would pay employees as long as a quarantine lasted even if the employees showed no symptoms but could not work from home given the nature of their jobs. Further, 12 percent said that they would pay for a fixed amount of time, and 20 percent reported not having made a decision yet on whether to pay hourly workers who self-quarantine.
It is important to recognize, however, that paying workers under the current circumstances would be advantageous in minimizing the spread of the virus. It would provide an incentive for employees to self-identify and self-quarantine.
Coronavirus Policy Translation Services
Employers are within their rights to include the following provisions in the Coronavirus Policy with regard to communicating certain virus-related information to employees, and getting that Coronavirus Policy translated into the languages of non-English speaking employees:
• Prominently post information in the workplace that encourages staying home when sick, proper coughing and sneezing etiquette, and appropriate hand-washing techniques.
• Check the latest guidance from the CDC with regard to traveler health notices, and advise employees to take certain steps before traveling.
• Advise employees to consider not traveling if they have any symptoms of acute respiratory illness.
• Inform employees who are not sick but have sick family members at home to inform their supervisor to determine the best course of action on a case-by-case basis.
Finally, one important question that can be tricky for employers is whether to inform other employees about an employee who does contract the coronavirus. In order to walk the line between protecting an employee’s privacy and maintaining a safe workplace, the CDC has recommended that an employer can and should tell co-workers that they may have been exposed to the virus, but the employer cannot tell co-workers the name of the person who is sick.
How Can I Easily Communicate Information to Employees in Locations in Foreign Countries?
The coronavirus is a worldwide outbreak. Therefore, all multinational companies need to ensure that their employees throughout the world are provided the necessary information to keep the workplace as safe as possible. The best and fastest way to do that is to get help from a professional legal translation service to ensure that translations of health and safety information in any language are provided quickly and accurately. Please email All Language Alliance, Inc. to learn more about our multilingual legal translation services and medical translation services to ensure employee safety. We provide legal document translation, onsite interpreting services, and remote interpreter services for workers’ compensation cases and HR-related communications from English to Korean, Portuguese, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, German, Vietnamese, and other languages.
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