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'You're planning for the unknown': Companies adapt time-off policies around coronavirus concerns

Posted at 8:21 PM, Mar 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 21:32:50-04

As the coronavirus threat progresses, companies are trying to figure out how to set policy around a global pandemic—especially when it comes to paid sick leave.

Companies locally are adapting to put employee health first.

"We have loosened up the rules around being absent from work, so we no longer require physician's notes for anyone who needs to be gone because of an illness," said Hatco Corporation's human resources vice president Kimber Simos. "We're really encouraging employee-owners to stay home if they're ill."

Hatco has stopped international travel, is limiting domestic tourism, and is giving employees the option to work from home.

"We don't know how bad this is going to get, or when, or if it is going to get bad," Simos said. "The best thing you can do is follow the great suggestions laid out by the CDC."

These are choices hundreds of other companies are making day by day and hour by hour.

"It's very much a moving piece, and like I said, it's different because you're planning for the unknown," said Jim Morgan, the vice president of member services at MRA, a human resources company in Pewaukee.

Other large corporations are also making changes. Walmart is waiving its attendance requirements through the end of April after a worker in Kentucky tested positive. Uber and Trader Joes are offering paid sick leave.

There is no federal requirement for paid sick leave, and Wisconsin is not a state that requires it.

Morgan says coronavirus may permanently impact time-off policies in the workplace.

"And if nothing else, this is going to raise an awareness that almost every company has a disaster recovery plan, every company is going to have a pandemic plan," Morgan said.

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