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Covid-19 Testing Services: What Employers Need to Know

Getting ready for a return to work in-person? Here’s an employer’s guide to Covid-19 testing services, and how they will impact your organization

If you’re one of the millions of employers planning your organization’s return to the workplace after having been remote or hybrid for the past couple of years, get ready for a rapidly-changing world. You are no doubt reevaluating and reimaging what “back to work” looks like now. You need to figure out how to quickly identify Covid cases, manage the spread of the virus, and make your employees feel safe, all while maintaining business as usual.

Your back-to-work adjustments may include a hybrid plan, social distancing guidelines, a vaccine mandate, a mask mandate, and/or workplace Covid testing. As you and your leadership team prepare your return-to-work plans, you’ll find that it is important to have a Covid testing plan in place. A testing plan requires that you educate both leaders and employees about the types, efficacy, and process of Covid testing, and are transparent about the plan. Employer transparency establishes trust and ensures employees feel comfortable. There’s a lot to consider. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from employers as they return to the office.

What are the Covid testing guidelines for the workplace, and when are they required?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), if your company doesn’t require vaccinations, and you employ more than 100 workers, you will need to test unvaccinated employees weekly. You will then need to provide proof of this testing to OSHA.

It is important to share Covid testing guidelines in the workplace for employees before they return to the office, especially with breakthrough cases on the rise.

A corporate Covid testing plan can make workers feel much safer about coming back on-site. It is also a useful tool to implement for employees who are eager to return to the office so they can do so in a safe way.

What does OSHA consider to be an acceptable Covid-19 test?

The official OSHA guidelines on PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing for employers state that a valid Covid-19 test is not both self-administered and self-read unless observed by the employer or an authorized telehealth proctor. In other words, your workplace needs to either perform the testing itself, or more likely, contract out to an approved third-party vendor like Innovative Health Diagnostics. The vendor will then perform the testing and secure and distribute the results. OSHA will only consider those test results as official. An employee cannot submit the results from an unmonitored, DIY home testing kit.

So, if you are welcoming back unvaccinated employees to working onsite, you particularly want to be aware of these new OSHA guidelines. Many employers who are subject to these rules are considering a weekly testing regimen instead of a vaccine mandate. According to a Fisher Phillips study, 43% of respondents said they were considering a testing program in lieu of a mandate, and only 18% of employers said they were outright rejecting the testing option.

Why is it necessary to test at work and what are the benefits of workforce Covid-19 testing?

Even if you are welcoming back a majority of already vaccinated employees, OSHA’s Covid testing mandate will benefit your organization. Workplace Covid testing can keep pace with emerging Covid variants and testing protocols can boost confidence throughout an organization. A testing plan will send a strong message to your workforce that your organization is committed to the team’s health and safety, which benefits morale and company culture. Further, a workplace testing policy helps work productivity return to pre-pandemic levels at an accelerated pace.

What does a good workplace COVID-19 testing actually look like?

Effective PCR testing protocols for companies follow a structured, official process and procedure, outlined in an easy-to-follow policy that employees can quickly and easily understand. Key components of a strong company testing plan include:

● Working with an accredited, corporate Covid testing service provider who can deliver a high level of accuracy and efficiency

● Determining and communicating how Covid-19 test results are tracked, received, and reviewed

● Addressing employee accommodations and exemptions

● Developing a follow-on plan to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, if employees test positive for the virus; including contact tracing, quarantining, and remote work options

How are employees’ rights to privacy addressed?

Accredited, reputable testing service providers maintain the highest levels of privacy when administering an employee’s Covid test. You should choose a testing provider that ensures that your employee’s rights will be upheld and respected. Furthermore, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require that an employee’s medical records as it relates to Covid-19 be kept separate from their personnel file.

How does the cost of Covid-19 testing in the workplace affect an organization’s employees?

The major cost comes from companies not implementing a testing policy when required to do so. Non-complying employers risk suffering from a poor reputation, bad publicity, and overall negative attention. This non-compliance could also result in trouble attracting quality employees, maintaining client relationships, possibly resulting in a loss of company revenue.

Furthermore, if the above is not enough reason to cooperate, companies who refuse to comply with the emergency temporary standard (ETS) could potentially risk a $14,000 fine per violation.

What can employers do if they have questions or concerns as they navigate local mandates?

Employers who need help navigating federal and local testing mandates can ask questions or bring concerns to us by contacting IHD to learn more about our Covid testing capabilities for employers.

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