You can’t stop employees from traveling this year, but you can institute protocols and procedures to minimize infection risks.
Because of state-specific travel restrictions and concerns about preventing the spread of COVID, employers are looking at ways to protect workers and prevent exposure to and spread of the coronavirus. While some restrictions are limited by laws and other considerations, there are some steps organizations can take to keep people safe and happy.
- Pre-travel inquiries. Employers generally can mandate that workers inform them about their travel plans. However, this should be limited to only the information the employer needs to determine if the employee is traveling out of state or somewhere that will put them at risk (such as a large concert or festival). Exempt from this should be employees working remotely on an exclusive basic and don’t have any in-person contact with colleagues who work onsite.
- Clear communication. Make sure to communicate up-to-date vacation policies to employees in advance of their time off. Arrange a protocol for employees to contact their supervisor if they are stranded in another state or country or are required to self-quarantine during their trip or on their return. Communicate what leave time/payment they are and aren’t entitled to if they are sick or must self-quarantine when they return home.
- Travel advisories. Employers can require workers to sign a travel advisory before they leave on their trip. This might explain how and why they might be required to self-quarantine on return (such as if they travel to a designated hot spot). It also should document what is expected of the employee: avoiding close contact with others, diligent handwashing hygiene, wearing a face covering in public, and notifying the employer immediately if the employee or a family member has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Health screenings. Communicate when and why employees may be subject to a health screening on their return. This may motivate them to make safe travel choices and healthy decisions on their trip.
Employers have latitude in approving or denying time off. For instance, the organization may reject a request for vacations to hot spots due to the needs to quarantine afterwards.