With COVID-19 case numbers soaring worldwide, it stands to reason that you can expect members of your workforce to test positive at some point. A positive case can affect your workplace - your other employees and customers could be at risk, and depending on the work you do, you may have to close to clean your facilities.
A positive case will need to be handled with sensitivity and confidentiality. There are steps to follow below, including writing to the employees to let them know what help and assistance are available to them when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 in your workplace.
Seven steps to take when an employee tests positive for coronavirus
1. Ensure you have an appropriate policy in place
It’s essential to have an official policy about reporting positive cases in the workplace. These should align with any government directives in place in the jurisdiction(s) you operate in.
Workplace health and safety laws require employers to ensure that their employees are safe.
The policy should reflect this and set out:
- How the employee should inform management about their positive test result
- Who they should report it to
- What steps they need to take, such as isolating for 14 days in line with CDC guidelines
- What to do if they feel unwell
- What leave entitlements or remote work arrangements are in place
- How the employer will inform the rest of the workforce when an employee tests positive for COVID-19
- Any other relevant steps
Ensure the policy is widely communicated, and send reminders about it regularly so that it stays front-of-mind.
2. Offer support to the affected employee
When an employee tests positive for COVID-19, they will be going through a range of emotions - they may be scared of how sick they will become and may also be scared about losing income.
While you can’t offer specific health advice, you can point them in the direction of a range of health and wellbeing resources. Offering support can help ease some employee concerns: they’ll know that their employer understands, and this is one less thing they have to worry about.
You also need to inform them about any necessary steps they must take - for example, if they are well enough to work from home, can they do so? When will they be able to come back to the office?
3. Conduct a risk assessment
You’ll need to determine what level of risk the positive employee has posed to the rest of the team and your facilities. This will involve asking the employee about their movements over the past 14 days. Who did they have direct contact with? Which facilities did they use? For example, did they use any specific meeting rooms or use a break room? Were they involved in any activities with third parties (meetings, conferences, training sessions, etc?)
You can prepare in advance an employee survey during COVID and use it when it is needed.
4. Inform anyone who is at risk
When an employee tests positive for COVID-19, it is essential that you let anyone who has been in contact with this individual know as soon as possible and give them directives about getting tested and quarantining.
5. Undertake appropriate cleaning
A deep clean of your facilities will be necessary if the employee has been working there. This will help to stop transmission to the rest of the workforce.
6. Inform all other employees
The last thing you need is rumors and misinformation spreading. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the chances are that other employees will hear about it “on the grapevine” and be suspicious and jump to conclusions if they haven’t heard anything directly from management.
Don’t delay this step. The longer you leave it, the more likely rumors will get away.
You should let the workforce know:
- Relevant dates and locations
- What steps you have already taken (notifying those most at risk, deep cleaning)
- What to do if they experience any symptoms.
You can do this by writing a COVID-19 letter to employees. A letter is an official document that will help to establish that you have followed appropriate procedures and protocols. As well as offering support and letting the employees know how to access any relevant health and wellbeing programs, it should address all protocols you require the employee to follow such as isolation, working from home (if available and if the employee is well enough to do so) and information about returning to the workplace.
Don’t forget you must respect the positive employee’s privacy, so you can’t divulge their name or any other identifying features to the rest of the team in your letter to employees about coronavirus. There are also medical confidentiality laws in place around the world that will be relevant to your workplace.
7. Let people outside the organization know
If appropriate, when an employee tests positive to coronavirus you should also communicate with any customers and other stakeholders who are at low risk. The information you provide should be similar to the information provided in your letter to employees about coronavirus at step 6 above.
However, you must let employees know first before communicating externally - it is bad for employee morale and can erode trust with management if the first time employees hear about something important is through external channels.
Importance of a coronavirus letter to employees
When an employee tests positive for COVID-19, writing to the rest of the workforce will reassure them that their health and well-being are important and that their employer is committed to ensuring their safety.
Writing a positive covid test results letter can help consolidate all the relevant information they need from their employer, so if they are overwhelmed, they can come back to it.
Your COVID-19 letter to employees should include:
- Any relevant information about the positive test result, such as when/where the affected employee worked.
- What steps the organization has taken to inform those most at risk.
- What steps the organization has taken to clean.
- Any steps that need to be taken, such as a transition to remote work for the workforce’s remainder.
- A reminder about any health and hygiene measures employees must follow.
- A reminder about protocols if an employee tests positive to coronavirus.
- A reminder about any health and wellbeing resources that people can access, particularly if they are worried or stressed.
We’ve created a free positive COVID test results letter template to help you get started.
When there is more than one outbreak, you can include a link to the letter in a scrolling desktop ticker and place it on your intranet so that the information is always readily available.
These are unpredictable times that are causing a lot of stress and worry for people, particularly if they may have been exposed to the coronavirus in the workplace. Being transparent and offering relevant support can bring some order and provide much-needed reassurance to your employees when an employee tests positive to coronavirus.