Employers play a pivotal role in containing the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace. It has been a year since the first case of Covid-19 in Malaysia was reported and many employers are still struggling to handle positive cases in the workplace. Despite the new territory, authorities are still coming up with better solutions to combat the pandemic.
As a recruitment agency in Malaysia, we understand the concerns that HR's have on how to handle Covid-19 at the workplace. This guideline can help you manage Covid-19 cases should it take place in your office. Find out the step by step guide below!
1. How HRs can Provide a Safe Workplace for Employees Required in Office
In compliance with Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO), most workplaces have been instructed to operate remotely. However, some organizations may require its employees to be physically present at the workplace (e.g. F&B staff, retail assistants). When it comes to these workers, employers are required to provide a safe workplace environment, under the 1994 Occupational Safety & Hazard Administration act (OSHA) (Act 514).
Below are some steps that an employer must take to ensure a safe workplace:
A. Ensure That the Office Environment is Hazard Free
In this case, management should ensure that the workplace is clean by scheduling a recurring sanitizing session at least once a week. Employers should also take steps to ensure that employees are complying with any new ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ (SOP) by monitoring them closely.
B. Convey Ample Information Towards Employees Regarding Issues Related to Covid-19
Employers should provide guidelines to educate employees on what steps they could take to prevent the spread of Covid-19. This can be done by providing staff briefing and training sessions on the do’s and dont’s with regards to Covid-19. In addition these reminders can be done through PowerPoint presentations or a mini guidebook curated by the HR team.
C. Provide Amenities to Ensure Employee Safety
We advise employers to provide their workers with materials that promote personal hygiene. This can include sanitizing stations, face masks, infrared thermometers, no-touch trash cans, disposable towels and surface disinfectant. By providing these materials, employers can help facilitate a clean and germ-free working environment.
Pro-Tip: Bear in mind that different types of occupation may have different levels of exposure. Therefore, employers should adjust SOPs’ accordingly. For example, employees who are in constant contact with the public should be provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) because they are constantly exposed to the public. This allows them to have a lesser chance of contracting the virus. Read more about how to choose PPEs for your employees.
2. What Should HRs Do if an Employee is Tested Positive?
Under the circumstances that one of your employees has tested positive. Employers must ensure to take all necessary precautions to contain the spread. These measures include:
Quarantine: The employee must be instructed to stay at home for 14 days. During this time, it is important toidentify individuals who have been in close contact with them.This makes it easier for authorities to conduct contact tracing.
Take mandatory details: Employers should also keep any details of individuals who have tested positive or have come in close contact with positive individuals confidential to prevent unnecessary panic in the workplace.
Disinfect and sanitize the workplace: In addition, employers must also take the necessary steps to disinfect the workplace. If the office is in a shared building or office area, the employer involved must inform the building management so that necessary precautions can take place
Pro-Tip: If an employee comes forward and admits to having close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. Employers are required to take the same precautions stated above. This is because the Covid-19 virus is an extremely contagious virus that can spread through close contact.
3. What HRs Must Know About Leave Guidelines For Covid Positive Employees
In the unfortunate case that your employee has contracted or come into contact with Covid-19. These are the steps that HR executives will be required to enforce.
A. Self Quarantine and Hospitalisation
A quarantine order is an order issued by the medical authority for individuals who are tested positive. If one of your employees is given the order to perform self-quarantine under Observation and Surveillance Order under Section 15 (1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 [Act 342].
Keep in mind that under new SOP measures implemented since last april 2020, employees who test positive for Covid-19 will be given quarantine orders. Thus, they are allowed to take a leave of absence from work.
Under this circumstance, employers must provide paid sick leave for employees who can provide a relevant letter from health authorities (e.g., eg, medical officers), for the period of hospitalization or self quarantine. Employers are also encouraged to financially support admitted employees should their hospitalisation period exceed their eligibility period.
B. Annual Leave for Positive Employees
Employers are not allowed to deduct annual leave for employees who have been given the quarantine order. Organizations can only deduct sick or hospitalisation leave. To do otherwise would be considered unfair.
C. Contracting Covid After Working Abroad
Should an employee be given the quarantine order upon returning abroad from official business.Employers must provide the employee with paid leave for the duration of the quarantine period.
Section 14 (3) of the Employment Act 1955 stated that "an employee may terminate his contract of service with his employer without notice where he or his dependants are immediately threatened by danger to the person by violence or disease such as such employee did not by his contract of service undertake to run".
Employees are allowed to decline to go abroad for safety reasons. Before sending an employee abroad employers should come to terms with their employees by discussing the risks together. Both sides could make better decisions if they include a travel agency in the discussion.
D. Unpaid Leave
Employers are not allowed to force employees to take unpaid leave. Unpaid leave should only be authorized when it is agreed upon by both parties (i.e. both the worker and the employer). Forcing your employees to take unpaid leave is a serious offence and organizations can be charged at a court of law if found guilty.
Please visit the Ministry of Human Resources website for the latest official guidelines and details about leave related issues during the pandemic.
Why HR Needs to Help Combat Covid-19 in Malaysia
The pandemic poses many threats to both the Malaysian economy as well as the livelihood of many Malaysians. As a trusted recruitment agency, we believe that it is important for employers to implement safety measures in order to contain the spread of the virus. Other than that, serious measures in preventing the spread of Covid-19 cases at the workplace will also allow your business to continue operating as per usual despite the pandemic
If you need more advice regarding policy changes during the pandemic, get in touch with our recruiters! BGC Malaysia provides HR administration service that has helped many businesses operate smoothly despite the changes of SOP since the pandemic.
If you have any tips on what steps employers should take if an employee is tested positive for Covid-19, let us know in the comments section below!