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Coronavirus at Work: Frequently Asked Questions

  • Human Resources
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 03/10/2020

A business owner reviews the latest information about the coronavirus to communicate with his employees.
FAQs on coronavirus in the workplace and how employers can prepare their businesses and employees to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Table of Contents

Note: The information in this document was accurate as of the date of publication.

The reported spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in parts of the United States raises the level of concern about the immediate threat for coronavirus for those communities. On March 3, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared that this is an emerging, rapidly developing situation and the CDC will provide updated information as it becomes available, in addition to guidance.

Your leadership can help to lessen the virus’s potential impact on your people and your business.

Get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how your organization can respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by listening to our recent webinar, or by reading the informational articles below.

What is coronavirus disease (COVID-19)?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause a range of illnesses from the common cold to severe diseases such as MERS, and SARS. In December 2019, a new coronavirus was identified in Wuhan, China, and in February, the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed an official name for the disease: COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a different strain than other respiratory viruses and information about it is evolving.

What can I do to protect my employees and business?

The CDC recommends simple, everyday preventative actions to help curb the spread of respiratory viruses.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.

Additionally, experts suggest:

  • Meeting virtually with clients and co-workers
  • Avoiding large work gatherings such as conferences
  • Limiting travel, especially non-essential business travel
  • Reviewing or developing your company's business continuity plan   

When should I – or my employees – stay home?

If you have symptoms of acute respiratory illness (fever, coughing, shortness of breath), the CDC recommends you stay home until you are free of fever, signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing or cough suppressant medication.

What if one of my employees is returning from international travel? Should I tell them to stay home?

If an employee is returning from international travel to an area with widespread sustained transmission of COVID-19, as confirmed by the CDC (as of March 4, 2020, that’s China, Japan, Italy, Iran, and South Korea), consider the most current recommendations found on the CDC website.

What if one of my employees becomes sick or is quarantined?

Employers should reference their established paid sick leave policies as well as federal, state and local paid leave laws where applicable.  Employers should also be aware of federal and state disability leave laws. Keep in mind that they may be quarantined and not diagnosed with the virus. In such cases, paid time off or sick policies may not be implicated.

What is Paychex doing to help me prepare for COVID-19?

We understand how health issues in the workplace could affect your business and your people.

Steps we’re taking to support you include:

  • Actively monitoring COVID-19 as it affects our customers’ communities
  • Providing an online resource center, including these FAQs, to help you respond should the virus affect your business, including information on workplace health and business continuity

And we will continue to offer these services that may provide support to your business:

  • Enabling same-day payday direct deposit to help you pay employees on-time in difficult situations
  • Conducting back-ups of your information in secure, geographically diverse data centers
  • Offering fraud protection and management, including a dedicated fraud hotline
  • Enacting best-in-class security protocols and offering cyber security insurance for your business

Are states providing updates on COVID-19?

Almost every state has created a specific resource page addressing COVID-19 for its residents, and the few that don't have information available on their Department of Labor or official state website. 

How can I stay informed?

Paychex will continue to monitor the situation as it develops. Visit our online resource center and the resources provided by governmental agencies (i.e. CDC, OSHA, WHO, etc.) for more information. 

Additional resources

The federal government has created specialty web pages to offer guidance on issues related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Disclaimer: The above information should not be considered legal advice and should not be substitute for legal or other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. It is provided for informational purposes only.  Employers are encouraged to review resources and links to government agencies found in the article and others in their geographic region for the most current information.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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