RETURNING TO THE WORKPLACE: HAS YOUR COMPANY CONSIDERED A TEMPERATURE MONITORING PROGRAM?
Is your business proactively planning for the “restart” of operations, and the return of employees to the workplace? As organisations return to business as usual, obviously health and safety of the workplace is critical. Among COVID-19 screening programs in the workplace, many employers have implemented or are considering temperature monitoring as a way to identify persons at risk of being infected and stopping them from infecting others. Whether mandatory or recommended, screening employees and visitors could play an important role in curbing the spread of the virus. Nonetheless, developing and implementing a screening program raises a range of issues organisations need to think through carefully.
Setting up a COVID-19 screening program for your organisation requires careful planning. Here are a few key steps to consider:
- Identify a “Screening Program” Leader. With guidance across the globe changing rapidly, a leader needs to be informed and practical, as well as sensitive to confidentiality.
- Understand applicable mandates and recommendations. Guidance may come from a myriad of sources on the national, regional, and local level.
- Develop a plan. The program leader, together with appropriate personnel, e.g. legal and HR, should outline a program in writing. Examples of key components of an effective program include:
- Designating responsibility. Who will conduct screening, maintain records, address disputes, handle requests for screening related information? All such employees and/or third parties should undergo training on program requirements.
- Identify who is subject to screening. This may include employees, contractors, job applicants and/or visitors.
- Establish procedures for administering screening. Determining the best time of day for screening, obtaining notice/consent (if required), deciding who receives and handles results, identifying equipment needed for screening, informing individuals about best practices for self-quarantining (if necessary), and communicating any updates to the programs.
- Ensure confidential and secure collection, storage, and, if necessary, transmission of the data screened.
Here are some examples of screening program mandates and recommendations from across the globe:
- The Americas: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an update expressly recognising that employers may implement temperature-screening programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise in Mexico, the Federal Labour Law allows employers to implement mandatory screening programs.
- Europe: The European Data Protection Board has confirmed that the GDPR provides legal grounds for employers to implement screening programs. This however, is subject to limitations of national law – e.g. in France the CNIL informed organisations that they should not collect the body temperatures of their employees or visitors to the premises, while in Germany, the DPA’s guidance made it clear that such screening is permissible.
- Asia: Most countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region have implemented GDPR-like data privacy legislation that would treat temperature data as sensitive. Nevertheless, and despite the concerns over privacy, several countries (e.g. China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore) have, to some extent, either mandated or recommended temperature monitoring in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
As nations confront the possibility of reopening, governments may increasingly compel, or otherwise sanction, the implementation of COVID-19 screening programs to help prevent a second wave of the virus. Your organisation may also decide to proactively establish such a program. In either case, the program should be carefully considered and implemented.