How will the coronavirus impact your business? Employers respond to the spread of COVID-19 with strategies to help employees who don’t want to get tested or take time off.

Update: The number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. were updated as of April 13th, 2020.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, COVID-19. Over 500,000 cases have been detected in the U.S. since January 21, 2020, resulting in over 20,000 deaths

There are a lot of workers out there who don’t have emergency savings and skip medical treatments they can’t afford. If those employees get sick, they might try to “push through it” and bring the virus to the workplace, infecting colleagues and further limiting productivity. 

Mercer has released a report to help employers understand how the spread of the coronavirus will impact their employees and how they should respond to it.

How Employers Are Responding to COVID-19

The initial employer response to the coronavirus has been to stay informed, protect and minimize exposure and take precautions, according to Mercer. This is what companies are specifically doing to minimize COVID-19’s impact on their business:

  • 96 percent of employers are not ending expatriate assignments.
  • 72 percent postponed nonessential travel to countries where there are confirmed cases of the COVID-19.
  • 68 percent are providing hand sanitizer in the workplace.
  • 58 percent are arranging for greater flexibility to work from home.
  • 58 percent are requesting self-quarantine of 14 days for staff that recently traveled to mainland China. 
  • 48 percent are providing masks in the workplace.
  • 43 percent have instituted a mandatary self-quarantine. 

How Will the Coronavirus Impact Your Business?

Nearly 90 percent of global employers are concerned about how the coronavirus will impact their businesses. Over 20 percent of employers are lowering threshold or target goals, changing or adding performance metrics, isolating China business and providing for automatic adjustment for the impact of the virus or allowing for discretionary adjustments at the end of the performance period to account for COVID-19’s impact on business results. 

Employers fear a serious impact if a large proportion of their workforce is ill. In the U.S., where employees going to work with a common cold happens regularly, it’s a valid concern that an employee with untested COVID-19 could come to work and spread the illness throughout the workplace. Mercer recommends employers listen to what employees are asking for, address their concerns, set firm policies to keep sick employees away from work and provide protection or prevention supplies onsite to limit the impact of the coronavirus. 

Review Your Business Continuity Plan

Mercer also suggests that employers review their business continuity plan to ensure they have a plan in place to handle global outbreaks of pandemics like the coronavirus. A good business continuity plan ensures continuity in the event of a disaster, enables ongoing operations and outlines procedures and instructions to follow in the face of a disaster; whether it is a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane; a fire; a cyber-attack or a medical epidemic.

Employers can minimize employee panic by keeping up to date on reports from government entities like the World Health Organization, communicating updates frequently, following government guidelines, listening to employees and providing protection or prevention supplies. 

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