While most are opting out of traveling for the holidays this year, there are quite a few that are still going the extra mile to see their families. 20% of Americans traveled for Thanksgiving and even more are expected to do so for Christmas. This makes things particularly risky for employers who are trying to protect their team from a potential surge of holiday COVID-19 cases.
Employers have important questions like: Can I limit my employees from traveling for the holidays? If they do travel, is it legal to ask employees where they are going? What else can I do to keep the rest of my team safe?
So, let’s look at some answers we do know (and keep in mind that this is the best information we have for now… one thing we know for sure is things can change).
Can I Limit My Employees from Traveling?
The short answer is Nope! If the employee is traveling for personal reasons, you cannot prohibit them from doing so.
Even if they are traveling to a COVID-19 hotspot, there are almost no circumstances where you can stop them. What you can (and should) do is educate them on the risks of COVID-19 while traveling, remind them of mandatory quarantine if necessary, and equip them for remote work if possible.
Can I Ask My Employees Where They are Going?
Yes! But only if you are asking every employee where they are traveling, and the information you’re seeking is in line with business necessity. Make sure your HR team, your supervisors, and your managers are all adequately trained in avoiding anything that may be discriminatory.
Again, this is a good place for education. Make sure your employees know they can access CDC information about out-of-country travel restrictions, and they can search their US destination in the CDC Travel Planner for any local restrictions. Encourage them to make plans that will keep them safe—make sure they know that you prioritize their safety and that they are important members of your team.
If an employee travels to a COVID-19 hotspot, they may need to quarantine when they return. If the travel is for personal reasons, your obligations as an employer depend on the circumstances. Check with your state laws, and with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). If you partner with TeamSense, you can add a question into your TeamSense pre-shift survey to ask them about travel and quarantine if applicable.
What Else Can I Do to Keep My Team Safe?
Increase transparency and communication across your workforce.
Everyone is trying their best to adapt to ‘pandemic working’ as efficiently as possible, but there is still a learning curve for all of us, including the members of your team.
It’s crucial that you take the time to educate yourself on CDC guidelines, and then make sure you not only relay that information to your team, but you also give them the proper space to be able to talk through issues or questions that may arise.
If there are language barriers on your team, provide local health information that’s available in their original language, so nothing is lost in translation. TeamSense is now available in Spanish as well to help smooth out language barriers.
While 2020 may be the gift that keeps on giving—and not in a great way—it’s a good time to show your employees you care by increasing communication and transparency with your team so you can do everything you can to keep your people safe and limit the risk of COVID-19.
Happy Holidays and Stay Safe!
Note: Commentary from TeamSense should not be construed to be authoritative legal or public health guidance. Organizations should follow the latest guidance from relevant governmental and public health authorities and seek counsel from appropriate Legal, HR, and EHS professionals.