Guidance for Employers and Businesses on COVID-19
The government understands that employers and businesses may have concerns about how they can remain open for business safely or reopen their businesses, and so play their part in preventing the spread of the virus. It is impossible for everyone to work from home as certain jobs will require people to travel to, from and for their work, for instance to operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or to deliver front line services. All employers must follow regulations and guidance as prescribed by the Turks and Caicos Islands Government.
Scope: This guidance will assist employers, businesses and their staff in operating safely during coronavirus (COVID-19). The following interim guidance may help prevent workplace exposures to COVID-19, in non-healthcare settings.
- Employers 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.
- Local conditions will influence the decisions that public health officials make regarding community-level strategies.
- All employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and lower the impact in their workplace. This may include activities in one or more of the following areas:
- Reduce transmission among employees,
- Maintain healthy business operations, and
- Maintain a healthy work environment.
- Businesses and workplaces should make every possible effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government.
- Support members of staff who are vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, by allowing them to work from home where possible to reduce risk of coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.
- Staff who are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should not travel to or attend the workplace.
- Staff may be feeling anxious about coming to work and also about impacts on livelihood.
- Workplaces should ensure staff are fully briefed and appropriately supported at this time
- Any member of staff who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) (a new, continuous cough and/or a high temperature) should be sent home and advised to stay at home for 14 days from onset of symptoms.
- If the member of staff lives in a household where someone else is unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) then they must stay at home in line with the quarantine guidance.
- Provide opportunities to work from home where possible to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Remind employees to wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues.
- Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.
- Those who follow advice to stay at home should be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day of their absence from work.
Support respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene for employees, customers, and worksite visitors:
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles.
- Provide soap and water in the workplace. If soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. If hands are visibly dirty, soap and water should be chosen over hand sanitizer. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained.
- Place hand sanitizers in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene.
- Place posters that encourage hand hygiene to help stop the spread at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
- Discourage handshaking – encourage the use of other noncontact methods of greeting.
Social distancing in the workplace
- Make regular announcements to remind staff and/or customers to follow social distancing advice and wash their hands regularly.
- Encourage the use of digital and remote transfers of material where possible rather than paper format, such as using e-forms, emails and e-banking.
- Provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, ensure the availability of soap, water, hand sanitizer and tissues and encourage staff to use them.
- Where it is possible to remain 2 metres (6ft) apart, use floor markings to mark the distance, particularly in the most crowded areas (for example, where queues form).
- Where it is not possible to remain 2 metres apart, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible.
- Where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible.
- If possible, keep teams as small as possible.
- Use signage to direct movement into lanes, if feasible, while maintaining a 2 metre (6ft) distance.
- Regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded.
- Use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the premises if they have symptoms.
Shift-working and staggering processes
Businesses should consider the following:
- Splitting staff into teams with alternate days working from home, or splitting across a day and night shift.
- Where staff are split into teams, and where contact is unavoidable, the split should be done between the same individuals.
- Spreading out standard processes, so that only one team needs to be on the premises to complete a task at a given time.
- Where it is possible to remain 2 metres (6ft) apart, using signage such as floor markings to facilitate compliance, particularly in the most crowded areas (this includes entry points to buildings, toilets and communal break areas) where queues may form.
- Ensure that the business’s social distancing measures are effectively communicated to all staff.
- Ensure frequent cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products and particularly at the end and beginning of shifts.
Staff canteens and rest areas
Where there are no practical alternatives, workplace canteens should remain open to provide food to staff with appropriate adjustments for social distancing. The following principles should be applied:
- Canteen staff who are unwell should not be at work.
- Canteen staff should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and before and after eating. If possible, increase the number of hand washing stations available.
- A distance of 2 metres (6ft) should be maintained between users, wherever possible.
- Staff should be allowed to continue use of rest areas, if they apply the same social distancing measures.
- Notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing should be placed visibly in these areas.
- Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.
- Consider extending and staggering meal times to avoid crowding.
Limiting spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in business and workplaces
- Businesses and employers can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by reminding everyone of the public health advice.
- Employees and customers should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water more frequently than normal.
- Employers should frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.
- Businesses may recommend that employees wear facemask as a precautionary measure - to be effective, face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene precautions.
Reduce Transmission Among Employees
Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:
- Employees who have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should notify their supervisor and stay home.
- Sick employees should follow the following steps:
Stay home except to get medical care
- Stay home. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home without medical care. Do not leave your home, except to get medical care. Do not visit public areas.
- Take care of yourself. Get rest and stay hydrated. Take over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen, to help you feel better.
- Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care. Be sure to get care if you have trouble breathing, or have any other emergency warning signs, or if you think it is an emergency. If you are having an emergency, call 911 and inform them in advance if you suspect you may have COVID-19.
- Avoid; ride-sharing, or taxis.
- Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home quarantine are met, in consultation with the public health team of the Ministry of Health.
- Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and follow MOH instructions.
- Be aware that some employees may be at higher risk for serious illness, such as older adultsand those with chronic medical conditions. Consider minimizing face-to-face contact between these employees or assign work tasks that allow them to maintain a distance of six feet from other workers, customers and visitors, or to telework if possible.
- Avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
- Practice social distancing by avoiding large gatheringsand maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.
Separate sick employees:
- Employees who appear to have symptoms(i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required. The employer should instruct fellow employees about how to proceed based on the Ministry of Health guidance.
Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices.
- Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of and understand these policies.
- Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member or take care of children due to school and childcare closures. Additional flexibilities might include giving advances on future sick leave and allowing employees to donate sick leave to each other.
- Employers that do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees may want to draft non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies.
- Employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.
Consider establishing policies and practices for social distancing. Social distancing should be implemented if recommended by state and local health authorities. Social distancing means avoiding large gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible (e.g., breakrooms and cafeterias). Strategies that business could use include:
- Implementing flexible worksites (e.g., telework).
- Implementing flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts).
- Increasing physical space between employees at the worksite.
- Increasing physical space between employees and customers (e.g., drive through, partitions).
- Implementing flexible meeting and travel options (e.g., postpone non-essential meetings or events).
- Downsizing operations.
- Delivering services remotely (e.g. phone, video, or web).
- Delivering products through curbside pick-up or delivery.
Employers with more than one business location are encouraged to provide managers with the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their COVID-19 response plan based on local conditions.
Cleaning and disinfection
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs. Dirty surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, and after removing gloves, aprons and other protection used while cleaning.
- Use either a combined detergent disinfectant solution at a dilution of 1,000 parts per million available Chlorine.
Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected/confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in the facility:
- If a sick employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, follow the Environmental Health Department guidelines for deep cleaning.
- Business guidelines will need to be reviewed and updated in accordance with TCIG guidance which may be issued from time to time and which can be located on the TCIG website.
- Use credible and reliable sources of information to monitor and assess the situation and refine your plans accordingly.
Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf
Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html
Appropriate use of non-medical mask or face covering
When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.
Non-medical face masks or face coverings should:
- allow for easy breathing
- fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
- maintain their shape after washing and drying
- be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
- be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
- be made of at least 2 layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen)
- be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping
- Non-medical masks or face coverings should not:
- be shared with others
- impair vision or interfere with tasks
- be placed on children under the age of 2 years
- be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials
- be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials
- be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues
- be placed on anyone unable to remove them without assistance or anyone who has trouble breathing
- Homemade masks are not medical devices and are not regulated like medical masks and respirators. Their use poses a number of limitations:
- they have not been tested to recognized standards
- the fabrics are not the same as used in surgical masks or respirators
- the edges are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth
- they may not provide complete protection against virus-sized particles
- they can be difficult to breathe through and can prevent you from getting the required amount of oxygen needed by your body
- These types of masks may not be effective in blocking virus particles that may be transmitted by coughing, sneezing or certain medical procedures. They do not provide complete protection from virus particles because of a potential loose fit and the materials used.
- Medical masks, including surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators (like N95 masks), must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients.