Supervisor Guidance During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 19, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Deans, Directors and Department Heads:

With COVID-19 present in the community, please familiarize yourself with the steps you can take as a supervisor should an employee receive a diagnosis of COVID-19 or instructions from a health authority to self-isolate due to symptoms.

You may already be aware of UHR’s COVID-19 webpage with information for employees and supervisors, which President Mark Schlissel referenced in yesterday’s email. We have added the additional guidance found below. You will find the site updated as conditions change and new information is available. You can also find up-to-date information about the university’s response on the Public Affairs website.

Please help take care of yourself and your colleagues by encouraging frequent handwashing and social distancing, including remote work whenever possible. We should all take care to monitor ourselves for fever, cough or difficulty breathing. If symptoms develop, please self-isolate, limit contact with others, and seek advice by telephone from a health-care provider to determine whether medical evaluation is needed. Employees who are ill for any reason should not come to work.

We deeply appreciate your leadership across the university. Consistent individual community action is vital to curbing the spread of disease and ensuring that our friends and families have the resources necessary to protect their health.

Sincerely,
Richard S. Holcomb
Associate Vice President for Human Resources

Preeti Malani, MD
U-M Chief Health Officer
Professor of Medicine

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Q. What should I do if an employee under my supervision or co-worker is diagnosed with COVID-19?

First, remember that the employee will appreciate hearing your support while they recover from the illness. You should clarify whether they have received any specific guidance from the public health department related to others in the work place.    

Next, you can anticipate that other employees may have heard about, or suspect that, someone is out sick with the COVID-19 related illness. They will understandably have concern when they hear about a colleague who is ill.  There will be concern for the colleague as well as concern over a potential exposure risk to themselves or others. 

You may acknowledge that there is an individual in the unit who has tested positive for COVID-19, without identifying the individual. You may also inform employees that guidance is being sought from the county health department to determine if there is indication for quarantine as a precautionary measure.

If you are in a health care setting, additional requirements to assess risk may apply and the Occupational Health reporting procedures should be followed. If employees are able to work from home and aren’t already doing so, you can offer that as an option while waiting for the county health department guidance.

Determining precisely what steps to take may necessitate guidance from the county health department.

The health department has the responsibility to perform a risk assessment for those who may have been in contact with the infected individual.

The health department will work with the infected individual to identify and directly notify people who have been in close contact with the person testing positive and provide specific instructions on what form or duration of quarantine is required. 

If the health department determines that some co-workers had a low-risk exposure those co-workers will be allowed to continue to work, but should monitor themselves for symptoms of illness.

If the health department determines that some co-workers had a high-risk exposure those co-workers will be contacted directly by the health department with instructions to self-isolate for 14 days following exposure and contact their personal health-care provider by telephone if they become ill. Employees in this category should not come to work.

Supervisors also may want to consider requesting additional cleaning in the work place. Contact the Facilities Service Center at this email address: EHS-Covid-19-reporting@umich.edu
 

Q. What do I do if an employee under my supervision or co-worker has COVID-19 symptoms and has been instructed to self-isolate?

First, you can express your support to that employee while they recover from the illness, and clarify whether they have received any specific guidance from a health-care provider.

Next, you can anticipate that other employees may be nervous that someone is out sick. They will understandably have concern when they hear about a colleague who is ill. The concern will be for the colleague as well as concern over a potential exposure risk to themselves or others. 

You may acknowledge that there is an individual in the unit who is self-isolating, without identifying the individual.

If you are in a health care setting, additional requirements to assess risk may apply and the Occupational Health reporting procedures should be followed.

No one who is ill, for any reason, should be working.

We encourage as many people as possible be allowed to work remotely.

With COVID-19 in the community, all employees should monitor themselves for fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

As long as other employees do not have symptoms, they may continue to work, while following recommended practices for social distancing.

If symptoms develop, employees should self-isolate, limit contact with others, and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider to determine whether medical evaluation is needed.

Supervisors also may want to consider requesting additional cleaning in the work place. Contact the Facilities Service Center at this email address: EHS-Covid-19-Reporting@umich.edu


Q. How much information may an employer request from an employee who calls in sick, in order to protect the rest of its workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic?

During a pandemic, ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus. For COVID-19, these include symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.

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