Returning to work? How employers can protect against COVID-19
Whether workers are ready or not, businesses across Maryland are opening back up and returning to a new normal in terms of their operations. In many cases, this means welcoming workers back in person.
If you are returning to work in the coming weeks and months, you should know the precautions your employer is taking (or should be taking) to keep workers safe from COVID-19.
Employers can choose to require employees to be vaccinated before coming to work. If they do so, they should prepare to offer accommodations to workers who cannot be vaccinated and have a reason for why vaccination is essential to worker safety.
Personal protective equipment
Wearing protective clothing and gear can prevent the spread of all types of illnesses, including COVID-19. Therefore, workers may still wear face coverings on the job. Businesses can even require workers to wear masks to reduce the spread of COVID-10 in the workplace, despite Maryland lifting mask mandates.
Changes to workplace operations
The workplace could look different when you return. You may see protective dividers, social distancing measures or reduced capacity. These measures can make transmission of COVID-19 less likely and prevent workers from getting sick at work.
Employers may also enforce new protocols for handwashing, staying home when sick and sanitization practices. And even if employers do not require these measures, individual employees may decide to do these things until they feel safe.
What can employees do if they are worried about contracting COVID-19 at work?
If none of these precautions are in place, or if some are, but you are still worried about getting sick at work, you can express your concerns to your employer. In some cases, they may approve remote opportunities and other arrangements to protect you from possible exposure risks.
The fact is that, while the claims can be more complicated than other illnesses, COVID-19 can be an occupational disease eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Maryland. Thus, employers should have measures in place to protect employees.
Note that regulations and guidance regarding COVID-19 continue to change as we learn more and increase vaccination rates. Therefore, if you have questions about employer responsibilities and safe work environments, it can be wise to consult an attorney.