As coronavirus spreads, Washington officials urge businesses to prep for employee illnesses

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — As the coronavirus continues to spread, Washington officials are telling businesses to prepare for employees being out sick.

That means everything from more telework to extra sick days is on the table.

Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said businesses everywhere need to get ready now to deal with the coronavirus.

“I think the most important thing for employers right now is just plan ahead,” he said.

Scalia said that includes planning for employee telecommuting and making sure employees use best practices for keeping healthy.

“Take a look at what capabilities you have and what plans you have to deal with the virus if it gets serious,” he said.

According to some experts, the coronavirus could cost the world economy more than $2 trillion, Including lost productivity from employees missing work.

“Not all small companies have a sick leave policy, so they should really think about at least instituting something temporarily if they don’t have such a policy,” said President and CEO of the National Small Business Association Todd McCracken.

He said even companies with sick leave policies should be ready to make adjustments.

“And they also should think about considering some additional flexibility even if they do have a policy,” McCracken said.

For example, he said no longer requiring a doctors’ note if an employee is out for several days, saving them from venturing out while sick.

“The name of the game is for anyone who is infected, can fewer than one other person become infected? That’s really the goal,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

The emergency spending bill signed by President Donald Trump last week does include money to help businesses impacted by the virus.

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(This story was originally published on March 9, 2020)

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