Could employers start testing employees for COVID-19 at work?
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President Donald Trump has now outlined new federal guidelines for easing the economy back up, deferred to states to set their own timelines once they meet certain criteria. More widespread testing for COVID-19 — whether you have it, whether you have had it — is one key to this. Retail giant Amazon is looking at testing all of its employees.
Not everyone who can transmit COVID-19 shows symptoms. But to reopen workplaces employers are going to want to make sure job sites are safe, says Rajaie Batniji, a doctor and cofounder of the employer health program Collective Health.
“I think it’s inevitable that employers are going to have to take the lead on getting broad testing for COVID done,” Batniji said.
He says many workers are used to getting seasonal flu vaccines at work and medical professionals have to prove they’re cleared for diseases like tuberculosis.
But Edgar Ndjatou, executive director at the nonprofit Workplace Fairness, points out federal law generally protects workers from medical evaluations by employers.
“There’s so many things that would have to be worked out before allowing the employer this type of access to their medical information,” Ndjatou said.
That includes job protections for workers who are found to be ill. Also, employers might have to test workers again and again, which would require a massive ramp up of testing capacity.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.
What kind of help can small businesses get right now?
A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.
What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?
New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.
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