Law firm disaster planning is essential, and part of any disaster recovery plan should include steps to take during a public health event like the one we’re experiencing now with the corona virus.
To save you valuable time and resources, WILMIC suggests using the following recommendations to structure a response plan for your law practice.
Listen to Public Health Experts
& Monitor Government Alerts
Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the World Health Organization (WHO) website, and through your national and local public health authority.
Protecting Employee Health
These basic precautions are known to be effective:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
- Use approved hand sanitizers if soap is not available
- Avoid touching your face and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people and animals if illness is suspected
- If sick, seek medical assistance and stay home until you recover
Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.
The Wisconsin Department of Health has a webpage with useful advice and information. It also contains a Q & A guide for employers as well as a list of preparedness guidelines.
Work Area Hygiene
To protect clients and employees, add hand sanitizer inside the office at the reception desk, in breakrooms and near restrooms and major doorways. Clean door handles and desk phones daily.
Limit In-Person Meetings.
Consider converting office meetings into conference calls or video meetings.
Conventional business etiquette has always included handshakes. You may re-think that during this public health event.
- Assess essential business functions
- Be sure cross-training of personnel has been done to perform essential functions in case of increased absenteeism.
- Identify possible changes to business practices to maintain critical operations.
- Ensure IT infrastructure exists to support multiple employees working from home.
- Implement remote access to email, phone calls and policy-claims system.
- Design flexible plan adaptable to how outbreak emerges.
- Solicit input from staff to identify gaps or problems.
- Establish triggers for activating and terminating plan.
- Set up procedure for notifying employees, insureds and business partners when plan implemented.
Impact on Daily Operations
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a list of contingency plans that may be helpful. These plans include:
Stay at Home Policy
Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
Sick Leave Policies
Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
Skip Doctor’s Excuse
Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
Separate Sick Employees
CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees:
Posters: Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
Tissues: Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
Encourage Hand Washing: Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
Coughing & Sneezing: Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette website and the clean hands webpage for more information.
Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps:
Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
Outside of the U.S.
If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.
Additional Measures in Response to Currently
Occurring Sporadic Importations of the COVID-19:
Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
If you have any questions or comments regarding the information in this e-mail, please contact Tom Watson at (800) 373-3839 or via e-mail.