Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19
On March 3 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) shared guidelines and measures that businesses and employers must take to help stop the spread of coronavirus in the workplace.
This document gives advice on:
Simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace
How to manage COVID-19 risks when organizing meetings & events
Things to consider when you and your employees travel
Getting your workplace ready in case COVID-19 arrivesin your community
To read more on these measures and guidelines, click here.
What are the legal obligations for employers in Kenya?
Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of their employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the OSHA). Employers should conduct a risk assessment to identify the risks of a COVID-19 outbreak at work, and adopt preventive and protective measures to minimize that risk.
Some measures employers should implement include:
Employee sensitization – Employers should disseminate current information and resources on Coronavirus to its employees. As a starting point, employers should begin by following the current guidelines from the Ministry of Health and the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus preparedness and response, and internationally, the World Health Organization.
Setting up preventative workplace behaviors – Employers should also explain expectations of proper handwashing and coughing etiquette and distribute/display factsheets and posters on how to stop the spread of the virus.
Avoid compelling employees to submit to a medical exam – While the Employment Act mandates employers to take all reasonable steps to ensure that he is notified of the illness of an employee as soon as reasonably practicable after the first occurrence of the illness, employers should avoid making unnecessary inquiries into an employee’s medical status and should not require employees to undergo medical exams.
Offer medical attention to Employees – Kenyan employers are obliged to ensure the sufficient provision of proper medicine for their employees during illness and if possible, medical attendance during serious illness.
What are some of the best practices for employers during this period?
Some of the best practices employers may adopt include:
Updating current policies and procedures – As a matter of best practice employers should create a plan that sets out the steps that they are taking to prevent and protect against an outbreak at the workplace and the steps to be followed if there is an outbreak.
Encouraging open lines of communication – Employers should require employees who become ill at work with COVID-19 coronavirus symptoms to notify their supervisor. Employers should encourage employees to self-isolate if they have been in a place where there is a spread of Coronavirus or if they have been in contact with someone who has been to a high-risk country regardless of whether they are manifesting symptoms.
Anticipate and address potential discrimination – Employers should be wary against engaging in conduct that may be viewed as treating employees less favorably or unfairly on the basis of an illness, impairment or disability. Employers may impose reasonable, and justifiable restrictions if there is a direct threat to the health or safety of others but not if they base decisions to restrict employees from work on any protected grounds including gender, race, age or disability.
Communicate with employees on leave and potential salary reductions – In a crisis situation, it may be necessary to require employees to take compulsory leave (paid) and even unpaid leave. Where it is impossible to continue to have employees attend their places of work and where such employees cannot telecommute, employers may consider placing employees on compulsory leave for a definite period. Employees will be entitled to their full salaries during this entire period. Where an employer requires employees to take unpaid leave, the employer must obtain the employee’s consent. However, it is important to highlight to the employees the fact that if they do not consent to such unpaid leave then the likelihood of loss of job would increase. Where an employer intends to implement salary reductions, the employer should obtain the employee’s consent in writing.
Adhere to statutory requirements on redundancy – Ideally employers should first consider salary reductions, compulsory leave and unpaid leave. Any salary reductions and unpaid leaveby employers should be done with the employee’s consent. However, employers may be required to make difficult decisions and lay off employees. In case of such eventualities, employers would ordinarily be required to comply with the mandatory redundancy provisions under the Employment Act.
Read more about the Ministry of Health’s guidelines for health and safety measures in the workplace during this period.
How do we deal with an employee that has tested positive for COVID-19?
Where you suspect that an employee is exhibiting symptoms of the virus or has tested positive you should encourage the employee to contact a qualified health care provider as well as government health officials to seek immediate medical attention if they have not already. Employers should request such employees to stay home for a minimum 14-day period of time to limit the spread of the infection in the office.
The subject employee should be requested to identify all individuals who worked in close proximity with them in the previous 14 days to ensure you have a full list of those who should be sent home. The employer should also identify all areas in the office where the infected employees were physically present and liaise with government authorities from the Ministry of Health to have those areas sanitized immediately by a qualified professional.