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Farm Sick Leave Policies and Procedures for COVID-19

Producers need to ask themselves an important question -- what will happen if someone on the farm gets sick?

guy mask thermometerAn illness could jeopardize your work crew, and having someone stay home can seem costly. However, the long-term cost would be much greater if the sick person continues to work and spreads the infection so the whole farm is down. 

How are you going to handle sick individuals? Do you have sick leave policies and procedures? How is the farm going to handle the extra workload if some are out sick? If the key operator is gone, does someone else know the details of the business to continue the work? Can you alter some job responsibilities so an ill person can continue to work but remain isolated for a time?  

When it comes to the sick leave policy, farm managers have a lot of flexibility. Connecting with a specialized attorney is recommended and can help create the foundation of the policy. Create a policy that is enforced, consistent, clear and in writing for all workers. 

The University of Minnesota Extension provides a quick look at how the Families First Coronavirus Response and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Acts could assist with paid leave and tax reimbursements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact your local lender for required qualifications and questions you may have. 

Develop procedures that will mitigate illness in the workplace, and write them out so there aren’t so many questions. Send a clear message to your employees about the sick policies and procedures to avoid confusion and communicate that you have thought about how to protect your workers since they are important to the operation. Take some time to get familiar with the CDC website with information related to COVID-19 and the recommendations on what to do if someone is sick. 

The University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources has created worksheets to help guide crop and cow-calf operations in the event of sudden illness 

Remember to practice what you preach. Encourage your workers to keep their circles tight, even off the farm. While you can’t control what the employees do on their own time, encourage them to take the threat of spreading illness to others seriously to help minimize exposure. 

The N.D. Department of Agriculture provides guidance on minimizing risk and what to do if someone tests positive or presumed positive for COVID-19: 

  • Crosstrain staff 
  • Stagger lunch times or increase distance for meals 
  • Require all sick employees to stay at home 
  • Encourage physical distancing during nonwork hours 
  • Sanitize all common contact surfaces, such as door handles and knobs, floor mats, steering wheels, etc.  
  • Implement a wash station for footwear or boots when entering or leaving facilities, offices or home 
  • Screen employees when they arrive for work 
  • Fill out an OSHA report, which is required if COVID-19 is confirmed 
  • Maintain only the essential number of staff needed to operate 

Many of these precautions and recommendations are being marketed for the COVID-19 situation. However, these policies and procedures potentially will need only minimal alterations and updates to be used beyond this COVID-19 pandemic -- helping prevent illness and promote a safe and healthy environment for many farm and ranch operations for years to come.

More COVID-19 Farm Safety resources

Filed under: covid19
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