The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared Monkeypox a public health care crisis in many cities in the United States. This virus is different from other infectious diseases, like COVID. Though the transmission of Monkeypox is rare in the average workplace, it’s primarily spread through physical contact and contact with materials or surfaces an infected person has touched. Additionally, there is a Monkeypox vaccine available right now. However, per the US Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers with in-person employees (especially in places where rates of the Monkeypox virus are higher) should consider taking some key actions and preparing to protect employees. Infected employees may also need a longer time to recover from its flu-like symptoms, rash, or other symptoms. MP’s HR experts answer employers’ four most common questions surrounding Monkeypox.
Monkeypox: 4 Key Employer Considerations
1. How to prepare for Monkeypox and protect workers.
Employers should be taking these steps to protect their employees, customers, visitors, etc.
- Boost cleaning protocols and offer more hand sanitizer and wipes for common areas.
- Develop a communication for employees that outlines how Monkeypox is transmitted, the symptoms of Monkeypox, the incubation period before symptoms start, etc. Share best practices for preventing exposure, including:
- Staying home if there are any signs or symptoms
- Avoiding skin-to-skin contact
- Not sharing cups, plates, utensils, etc.
- Washing hands or using hand sanitizer often, especially before eating, after using the restroom, and before touching one’s face
- Avoid touching clothing, towels, or bedding from coworkers, customers, etc., without wearing protective gloves.
- Update safety policies to include Monkeypox and its symptoms, transmission information, etc. Require employees with potential exposure to the virus, who develop a rash (that is Monkeypox-like), or who are sick, to stay home from work.
- Update emergency action plans to include Monkeypox exposure or transmission.
- Offer sick leave appropriately for employees to either stay home or to get tested for Monkeypox if they’re concerned about exposure.
- Inform employees of their leave options if they are infected, including sick leave and other applicable leave programs. In some cases, employers may want to offer more sick leave for employees who contract Monkeypox and must be out of work for an extended period.
2. What to do if a worker is exposed to Monkeypox or is diagnosed with it.
Employers could create a procedure for exposure or diagnosis and share it with employees. This procedure could include these steps:
- Employees exposed to, or diagnosed with, Monkeypox should stay home from the workplace and seek medical care. They should call into the office and report their status and anybody they may have come in close contact with.
- Depending on their needs, employees may discuss leave options with the organization’s HR department. These options may include paid sick leave or state and city-specific leave programs.
3. How to document employee diagnoses, testing, etc.
It’s critical for employers to keep their employees’ medical information and records in a separate, confidential space that only qualified members of management or HR have access to. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and federal law require employers to keep employee medical information confidential. It’s also critical for managers and human resources employees to keep people’s Monkeypox concerns, diagnoses, leave, etc., private. They should not reveal to other employees if somebody contracts the disease. If they need to let somebody know they’ve been exposed, managers must keep the name of the person who has Monkeypox (or thinks they have it) anonymous. If employees or managers ask why an employee is taking sick leave, the employer may not reveal the reason.
4. How to avoid discrimination concerns.
Avoiding discrimination or the appearance of discrimination will be essential when employers handle Monkeypox challenges. First, employers should not tolerate any discrimination or harassment of employees based on sexual orientation. This disease has an unfounded reputation as being confined to certain communities. Organizations should be aware of this misinformation and be hypervigilant that employees within protected classes are not harassed or discriminated against, especially in reference to Monkeypox.
Additionally, employers must not meet requests for sick leave with retaliation (or the appearance of retaliation) or discrimination. If employees make any harassment, retaliation, or discrimination claims, the HR department should take them seriously and investigate promptly.
When interviewing job candidates and interacting with current employees, organizations should ensure ADA compliance. Employers may want to review:
- Antidiscrimination policies
- Harassment policies
- Retaliation policies
- Harassment training
- Antidiscrimination training
They should also monitor how employees and managers interact in the workplace to prevent and quickly respond to any stigma or misunderstandings related to Monkeypox.
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