As COVID-19 swept across the globe, it left fear and uncertainty in its wake. Since March of 2020, day-to-day business operations have changed tremendously. Organizations who sent non-essential workers home to protect their health and safety must now grapple with the decision of when and how to return employees to the workplace.
One state’s recent law provides a preview of what that return could look like from a health and safety perspective.
On September 17th, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed Assembly Bill (AB) 685 into law, establishing new requirements for employers.
Three takeaways from the new law:
- Beginning January 1st, 2021, employers must notify employees about any potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace
- Employers must also notify their local public health agency about an outbreak as defined by the State Department of Public Health
- The mandatory notification period is one business day to notify employees of potential COVID-19 exposure and 48 hours to notify their local public health department of an outbreak
This new law outlines how critical it is for employers to be expeditious in their contact tracing and notification efforts.
The new requirements under AB 685 go into effect in less than two months. Other states may soon follow California’s lead and introduce similar bills. It is business-critical that employers begin reviewing their COVID-19 contact tracing program immediately to ensure they are compliant by January 1st, 2021.
Companies worldwide have been scrambling to understand the most efficient process for effectively implementing a contact tracing program. Challenges and concerns have become readily apparent, with businesses relying on their HR departments and software solutions to provide guidance and expertise. Collecting and storing employee information is nothing new for a business. However, employee privacy has been a significant concern.
The way that data is collected, stored, and utilized varies from business to business. Contact tracing information is no different than collecting any other identifying information of an employee. For example, pre-employment screening, driver’s license verification, health benefit questionnaires, and emergency contact information are typically collected by all employers at some level. In fact, most workplaces regularly utilize visitor logs, swipe card entry systems, security key codes, and CCTV. In a sense, these are all tracing and tracking methods implemented for the employees, visitors, and premises’ health, security, and safety.
Mandatory contact tracing empowers companies to protect their employees’ health and safety, instill peace of mind while managing risk and liability. One person infected with COVID-19 has the power to impact an entire organization, creating the need for companies to be quick and automated in their contact tracing procedures and notification processes.
HR plays a significant role in culture change and redefining the expectations of employee data and consent. During this time, HR professionals are advised to take the reins with an automated and effective contact tracing solution that is HIPAA compliant and expeditious.
A solution needs to offer:
- Tracing methods that do not extend beyond the walls of the workplace
Offering a solution such as this will ensure employee privacy and demonstrate that adequate health and safety measures are in place for all employees’ well-being. It is paramount to execute an automated and dependable contact trace program upon a confirmed COVID-19 infected case and properly notify all potentially exposed employees within the constraints of AB 685 to comply with California state law.
For organizations outside of California, it is only a matter of time before similar bills are introduced. Reviewing and implementing effective contact trace procedures now will put you ahead of the game and give employees the peace of mind they deserve. Companies that turn this adversity into their advantage will continue to thrive and push forward with success.