As COVID-19 numbers stay on the rise, it is realistic and necessary for HR pros to create a plan of action if a team member tests positive. Discussing this topic with your employees is not easy, as you are expected to be communicative and sensitive while having a clear game plan and respecting employee privacy. In this guide, you’ll find tips on how to proceed when an employee tests positive for COVID-19, as well as a complete sample communication letter template.
Tips for Handling a Positive COVID-19 Test in the Workplace
If an employee has notified you that they have tested positive for the coronavirus, make sure first and foremost to offer your emotional support. As an HR professional, you are experienced in having difficult conversations — let your team member know you are there to support them as best you can.
Complete a Risk Assessment
In order to ensure the safety of your team, make sure to ask the employee about their whereabouts within the past 14 days, and identify if there are shared areas or specific team members at heightened risk. In addition to workspaces, identify any third-party meetings that the team member may have been involved in. Once you identify these points, it is your job to inform employees at higher risk that they may have been in close contact with the affected team member. Do not mention the affected employee’s name or any features about them — and respect their confidentiality per ADA/HIPAA requirements around medical information.
Review Company Policies
Make sure you have a full understanding of what your company policy is around EFMLA, EPSL and other paid leave policies relevant to COVID-19. Communicate these options clearly to your employee or communicate work-from-home expectation if working remotely. Review privacy regulations and HIPAA requirements around confidentiality for team members that have tested positive.
Sample Communication Template to Employees (for COVID-19 in the Workplace)
Last, but certainly not least, send an email to employees to notify them of the current situation. Here’s our template for communication to provide employees if there is a COVID-19 infection in the workplace.
Dear [employee name]:
Please be advised that [Company name] was notified that an employee has [tested positive/insert circumstances] for COVID-19. As an immediate response to protect the health and safety of our workforce, we are [notifying all employees/insert preventative action taken, such as temporary closure or other action].
We are also taking the following steps (as applicable):
- [Instituting remote workforce]
- [Sanitizing and closing workplace]
- [Notifying building management]
We ask that you abide by the following federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to protect your health and those around you:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Follow all recommendations provided by the CDC here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html.
If you, or someone in your household, exhibits COVID-19 related symptoms, please notify [HR or other/contact info] so that we may track any potential outbreaks within our company. All such personal information will be maintained confidentially.
Your health and safety are our priority. We are immediately assessing this situation and will contact you by [insert reasonable date/legally compliant date based on company action] via [email/phone] with any/all relevant workplace notices detailing your rights and protections as our employee.
You may contact [HR or other/contact info] with your questions.
These are trying times for us all, and we are here for you.
The GoCo team is working hard to support HR pros through COVID-19. Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center for more tools and tips.