We are in the midst of a new outbreak, monkeypox. Monkeypox was declared a public health emergency of international concern (highest warning level) by the World Health Organization (WHO) and a public health emergency by the United States. First COVID-19 and now Monkeypox -these are good nudges for employers to implement general policies to address communicable diseases. These policies will help limit disruptions in business operations and communicate what employees are accountable and qualify for when they are sick.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox is a rare disease spread through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or bodily fluids. It also spreads via respiratory droplets during “prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex.” It is contagious from the start of symptoms until the bumps are healed with a new layer of skin over them.
Since close and extended contact are required for spread, it is improbable monkeypox will rapidly spread in the workplace. According to the CDC, you should clean frequently touched areas with “EPA-registered disinfectant in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.” Require everyone to wash their hands regularly “with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching” their face and after using the bathroom. Current guidance is available at https://www.cdc.gov.
The CDC recommends if an employee tests positive (or starts displaying symptoms), that they should leave work, isolate, and contact their healthcare provider. They should continue to isolate until their rash completely heals and all scabs fall off with a new layer of skin over them. The WHO says this contagious period lasts 2-4 weeks. The entire workplace will not need to shutdown during the isolation period unlike what we saw at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, there are no federal monkeypox-specific leave requirements. However, state or local sick/earned paid leave laws, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), state- and local-level medical leave entitlements, and/or employer leave policies might apply to an employee positive for monkeypox. Also, you might consider expanding your COVID isolation/quarantine leave to accommodate employees impacted by monkeypox. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) might apply to provide short term reasonable workplace accommodations for unpaid leave and/or remote work where applicable.
You cannot reveal an infected employee’s identity/identifying information to other employees just like with COVID according to the ADA. You can notify your workplace of a positive case including only essential particulars. You should seek legal consultation, as those who might have been infected need to test and potentially quarantine.
In addition to updating your policies regarding communicable diseases, consider sending an update to employees with relevant information about monkeypox, how to minimize transmission, and your company’s response plan.
Need help understanding how monkeypox and its policies impact your business? Let’s set up a free consultation to discuss how we can help!