According to Jurgita Judickienė, attorney-at-law at JUREX, employers have both legal and managerial instruments to ensure that diseases do not spread at the workplace, in particular in today’s context as the consequences of the dangerous virus are observed not only in Asia but also in close proximity to Lithuania. An epidemic and sick employees mean not only financial loss but also the burden of a moral responsibility for not taking preventative steps, with the consequences of this failure difficult to forecast.
Employers can take the following steps:
Provide an opportunity to work remotely. This is probably the most effective means of disease prevention, whereby an employee with early symptoms who nevertheless is able to work can work from home and in this manner not pose a threat of contaminating others and protect himself or herself against more serious complications.
Provide a flexible work schedule. This will reduce the number of employees present in the same room at the same time, the number and shifts of employees can be regulated, and more effective ventilation and disinfection of the premises and other preventative measures can be ensured.
Cancel business trips. Technology enables us to deal with some of work-related issues remotely. Certainly, technology cannot substitute personal meetings with colleagues or business partners, but trips currently mean a virus spreading channel and the need of trips must therefore be considered with particular caution.
Educate employees. Employee training should be one of the main duties of employers. Employers should properly prepare their employees for a variety of non-standard situations, in particular those related to health, which is the most valuable asset. Some of the measures include hand washing, provision of disinfecting liquids and face masks to employees and the encouragement to wear face masks, and instructing on how to responsibly choose holiday destinations. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry is updating a list of countries not recommended for travel on a regular basis.
Disease outbreaks and the rapid spread of diseases create panic and uncertainty. It is therefore very important that employers have in place a specific plan and measures, openly dialogue with their employees, notify employees on how diseases can be prevented and overcome challenges together with employees.