The world seems at a standstill with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic with a reported 173,334 confirmed cases, 7,019 deaths spread across 152 countries as of March 17.
The illness presents itself with flu-like symptoms and has caused economic, social, and health devastations all across the globe.
Of course, this has had an effect on businesses with both employers and employees grappling to cope with its implications.
The Coronavirus, which has caused a financial shut down in China and across the world, has provoked travelers coming back from high-risk Coronavirus nations to experience uncommon screening and conceivable isolation. Even though it is very crucial that organizations in Liberia and globally must work to circumvent the would-be risk of Coronavirus and watch over their employees, human resource professionals in Liberia must also be apprehensive that fear and falsehood about the Coronavirus in workplaces could cause more problems if information dissemination is not handled with attention and carefulness. Misinformation about Coronavirus may be a more weighty menace in Liberia at the moment than the virus itself.
What can Liberia’s HR Professionals do?
In Liberia, fear and anxiety are peaking after two confirmed cases. The president has ordered all schools to be closed for seven days to access the situation, public gatherings and travels have been restricted, and most organizations have set their respective guidelines to help prevent further spread.
The most crucial thing HR professionals can do at this time is to provide guidance against hyping of the situation in the workplaces. All HR professionals in Liberia have to communicate precise and up-to-date facts on precautionary procedures, travels, remote working, and solitary confinement to employees.
If your organization has a strategy on transmissible infections, it is important to use that strategy as the preliminary guidance. The comprehensive media reporting of Coronavirus cases is also a good cue for HR professionals to continue to accentuate preventative stages for safeguarding their respective workplaces against all viruses; not only Coronavirus.
The following are some guidelines HR professionals in Liberia follow can follow:
Regular Accurate Communication: HR professionals in Liberia should be vigorous in disseminating comprehensive, transparent, and accurate information to all employees in their respective organizations. By providing employees with accurate information about Coronavirus, HR professionals can uphold good order and protect the organization against potential liability. To avoid the spread of misinformation, HR should ensure that employees are not sharing the wrong information in offices about COVID-19.
Maintaining a small workforce: HR professionals can work with their management in determining essential and non-essential rosters of staff and putting procedures in place to allow for some employees to work remotely in a situation where self-isolation may be compulsory. Some shift and temporary workers and employers can be asked to stay home for a period until the situation improves.
Wash Stations: HR professionals at their respective organizations should ensure that there should be appropriate and reachable wash stations with antiseptics and alcohol rub dispensers accessible at their respective offices.
Awareness: HR professionals should continuously provide knowledge and education to employees about the periodic flu, not to only avoid this new Coronavirus, but then again to help to prevent seasonal influenza, as well as the possibility for symptoms of flu to be mistaken for the Coronavirus.
Assumption of Risk Form: HR professionals can work with their leadership in drafting policies that will allow international staff working in Liberia to work remotely from their home countries. They can also sign an assumption of risk and release of liability form, which will enable them to remain in Liberia and work at their own volition. The risk assumption form will allow international staff to spend time with their families during this critical time, and at the same time reduce the liability to the employers.
Voluntary Leave: HR professionals can encourage employees to take annual leave with pay if they want to be with their families at this crucial time.
Travel Policies: HR professionals can work with their senior leadership team to draft rigorous travel policies to protect other employees and their respective workplaces.
Working with Insurance Companies: HR professionals can work with their respective insurance companies to adjust the policy to absorb COVID-19 cases. Some staff may not have the finances to pay for their sickness or treatment if diagnosed with COVID-19. Organizations that do not have insurance for their staff should begin to rethink their employee’s welfare and legal obligation to protect their staff.
Discrimination: At this point, there can be a demonstration of discrimination in the workplace. HR professionals in Liberia have to ensure that employees are not rebuffing to network with their colleagues. These colleagues or clients may be of Asian descent or relatives of an infected person. Such behavior from employees may prompt grievances about workplace discrimination. HR professionals ought to carefully proceed, and ensure that their respective Coronavirus policies do not unintentionally differentiate between class.
Infestation: If a member of your staff contracts Coronavirus, follow your internal guidelines, and those from the National Public Health Institute of Liberia for reporting for quarantine. Work with the office immediately to sanitize the workplace. Other employees should be informed of the situation and the organization can foot the bills of medical tests to detect the virus in employees who might have come in contact. Publishing employees’ status on social media is not the right way and may only increase fear among the public and other employees.
Follow the National Public Health Institute of Liberia Guidelines: The guidelines provided for HR professionals in Liberia are not exhaustive. It is also necessary to always follow the NPHIL guidelines. Ensure your team calls 4455 if they observe symptoms or come across cases that present themselves suspicious.
As HR professionals, we all have a crucial role in bringing this pandemic to an end. Controlling the pandemic is not only the responsibility of the national government but all Liberians, including HR professionals who play critical roles in mainstream governments, private, and public institutions.
Featured photo by Brittany Danisch