According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), most American workers will likely experience low or medium exposure risk levels at their job or place of employment. Vacation rental managers share a responsibility to keep their employees healthy and safe during COVID-19, and there are precautionary steps that managers can take. Managers should plan to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of disease transmission in the community and be prepared to refine their business response plans as needed. We teamed up with HR4VR to offer guidance and best practices for preparing vacation rental workplaces for COVID-19.
What should a vacation rental manager do if an employee is exposed to COVID-19?
Managers have a duty under Occupational Safety and Health Act's to provide a place of employment that is free from hazards likely to cause death or serious injury to their employees. In context of COVID-19, managers with evidence an employee has been exposed to COVID-19 may require him or her to take leave or work remotely for the 14-day quarantine period.
What should I do if a member of my staff tests positive for COVID-19?
Any staff that tests positive for COVID-19 should be sent home immediately. The manager should determine, through direct discussions with staff, who else the employee has come in contact with or worked in close proximity with (less than six feet) during the previous 14 days. These at-risk employees should also be sent home. In order to abide by medical privacy laws, the infected employee should not be identified by name.
Can I ask staff if they've been exposed to COVID-19?
Yes, managers can (and probably should) make this request of employees. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits an employer from making disability-related inquiries of employees, requiring staff to disclose COVID-19 exposure does not likely elicit information about a disability. Furthermore, employers have a general duty to maintain a workplace free of hazards under OSHA. However, managers must ensure that they protect the confidentiality of any medical information they receive from or about individual employees.
Should I compensate staff that become sick with COVID-19 and are required to quarantine?
For employees non exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state wage and hour laws, managers are not required to compensate them for any time not worked. That said, it may be a best practice to provide some sort of compensation during this time to avoid reputation damages and boost staff morale. Exempt employees, in contrast, must be paid their salary if they perform any work for part of the week.
What can I tell staff if I learn an employee is sick or has been exposed to COVID-19?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that if any employee is confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, employers should inform other staff of their possible exposure in the workplace, while maintaining confidentiality and medical privacy. Managers cannot name the ill or exposed employee to coworkers.
Can I encourage or require employees to telework as an infection control strategy?
Yes, managers may encourage or require employees to telework. In fact, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that remote work is one strategy to control transmission of COVID-19. That said, managers cannot single out employees either to telework or to continue reporting to the workplace on a basis prohibited by any Equal Employment Opportunity laws. Employees with disabilities that put them at high risk for complications associated with COVID-19 may request to work remotely as a reasonable accommodation to reduce chances of infection.
What should be included in a remote work policy?
A remote work policy communicates remote working expectations in a clear and consistent manner. A workplace policy should: address the process for making remote working requests, list equipment and supplies needed for a job function, review reimbursements for equipment purchased to perform work (e.g. phone, internet, office supplies), outline safety concerns, depict wage and hour issues, and state the duration of arrangement.
Does OSHA consider COVID-19 a recordable illness?
Yes, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has deemed COVID-19 a recordable illness. This means that managers are required to record instances where staff contract the virus while at work, in accordance with OSHA requirements. State-plans, which are OSHA-approved workplace safety and health programs operated by individual states or U.S. territories, may have additional requirements.
What safety guidance should managers be following?
OSHA has published Guidance on Preparing Workforces for COVID-19. Employers with a current influenza pandemic plan in place may need to update it to address exposure sources and risks specific to COVID-19.
Am I required to let staff wear masks?
No, it is not legally required for managers to have staff wear masks. While wearing a mask may help staff feel safer to the threat of contracting coronavirus, the decision is up to the discretion of the management company. For those managers that permit the wearing of masks but choose not to provide them, managers should provide an explanation of that decision. For those that do allow staff to wear masks, the manager should advise that staff do so consistently, and not just in the presence of certain employees or visitors.
HR4VR is a boutique HR consulting firm specializing in helping vacation rental management companies with their human resource needs. The team at HR4VR has extensive experience providing HR programs and services designed for the unique needs of property managers; whether related to COVID-19 or other circumstances. Please consult HRVR for more information here.