Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By now, you have probably seen the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control that says people who have been exposed to COVID do not need to isolate. The new guidance also minimizes activities like contact tracing and distancing. I’m not here today to tell you whether to get vaccinated or wear a mask. I am here to say that when individuals need to take care of their health, they should be allowed.
I understand that we’re trying to put the pandemic behind us. But COVID is still a part of the world and our lives. And at the same time, we’re facing another public health emergency with MPV, also known as monkeypox virus. Employees might be extra cautious because they’re in a high-risk category or they have a friend or family member who is. Maybe an employee is still grieving the loss of someone close to them.
The reason for today’s article is that I’m starting to see an increasing number of headlines indicating that it’s getting harder for employees to take time off to recover from COVID. Honestly, we need to stop this. We should not ask people to work when they are sick and we should not have to explain to people not to work when sick, or in the case of COVID – contagious. I shouldn’t have to say this but let me say it anyway. Regardless of the reasons, asking an employee to work when they have tested positive for COVID (or going into work when you’ve tested positive) doesn’t come across like you have regard for the welfare of others.
EMPLOYERS: Please tell your employees not to come to work when they are sick, that includes COVID. If you don’t offer paid sick time, consider doing so. It’s not 1985 anymore – paid sick leave is a common – and expected – employee benefit. Not only will it keep employees from showing up to work when they’re sick, but it could be a way to attract candidates. If you have employees who habitually take advantage and call-in sick, coach and counsel them. Don’t pressure them into coming to the office anyway.
EMPLOYEES: Please don’t go to work when you are sick, that includes COVID. I understand that this could mean having less pay. And it’s easier said than done – especially with all the talk about inflation and recession. But figure out how to either save up a “sick day” fund or find another employer that treats you better by offering paid sick time. I’m pretty sure you do not want to be the reason that someone’s family member, friend, or coworker gets sick. Maybe goes to the hospital. Possibly dies. Be a good role model for others and practice safety in the workplace.
Honestly, I don’t want to believe that these situations happen to intentionally cause harm. And I understand it’s confusing. We all watched the President recently work from home after he tested positive for COVID, while under a doctor’s care. If an employee insists that they’re taking medication and can get a little work done, then maybe it’s fine to do some work from home. I would strongly suggest speaking with legal counsel to put the appropriate protocols in place. But it’s not mandating that the employee come to the office while they are contagious.
We want any employee who tests positive for COVID to get well. While we don’t know all the causes for long-COVID, we do not want an employee to experience the symptoms of long-COVID because they didn’t take care of themselves when they originally tested positive.
People want to go places where they feel safe. Let me say that again. People want to live and work and shop and dine at places where they feel safe. Which means that we all must act safe. Staying safe is not asking an employee to go to work when they test positive for COVID. And it’s not going into the office when you test positive thinking no one will notice or care.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby at the 34th Street graffiti wall in Gainesville, FL19