WASHINGTON – As the U.S. government continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the economic recovery, global technology trade association ITI today outlined recommendations for guidance on reopening the workplace. In a letter sent to Vice President Mike Pence, ITI identifies areas where the tech sector seeks clear guidance to balance safely reopening workplaces across the United States and protecting public health.
ITI urges federal, state, and local authorities to coordinate and coalesce around a single set of guidelines that are comprehensive, reduce the risk of a patchwork response, and make it easier for all employers to identify and follow health-protective guidance specific to COVID-19. Those areas include: assessing readiness, health monitoring, transmission mitigation techniques, and employee support. ITI also urges the administration to regularly review and modify the guidance as appropriate, given the evolving nature of the pandemic.
“Public-private sector collaboration will be critical to safely reopening workplaces in a manner that ensures the trust of employees and places the United States on a path to a prosperous recovery,” said ITI President and CEO Jason Oxman. “Many in the technology sector will eventually return to their workplaces. When the time comes to safely do so, unified federal guidance will expedite the transition to the next phase. We welcome the opportunity to engage with Vice President Pence and others in the Trump Administration on the development of guidelines for safely reopening workplaces across the country.”
Guidance in the areas ITI identifies will aid businesses of all sizes, across all industries – including the tech sector – and in all localities to determine the healthiest path for reopening workplaces. These areas include:
- Assessing readiness: Workplace readiness guidance that includes a checklist of considerations for employers to ensure employee and consumer confidence while mitigating transmission of the virus.
- COVID-19 screening: General guidance on which screening methods, techniques, and technologies can be reliably used in particular work environments to detect possible COVID-19 illness would encourage the widest possible deployment of employer-based screening.
- COVID-19 testing: Flexible testing guidance to give employers the ability to adopt testing measures based on the safety needs of their workforce. As testing capacity increases, guidance should encourage widespread testing, including of those who are asymptomatic, and also encourage employer-administered testing.
- Physical changes to office environments to enable social distancing: Space planning guidance, such as how to reconfigure cubical or open workspace environments, and how to appropriately mitigate transmission risk in shared spaces such as elevators, meeting rooms, kitchens, break rooms, cafeterias, locker rooms, and restrooms.
- Alternative mitigation strategies where social distancing is infeasible: Alternative mitigation guidance where workspaces do not lend themselves to retrofitting or job functions prevent social distancing. .
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or face coverings: Guidance on who is responsible for providing PPE or face coverings, whether an employer may require employees to provide their own face coverings in an environment that does not require PPE, and whether employers are obligated to verify employee-provided face coverings conform with CDC guidelines.
- High risk or vulnerable employees: Risk profiling guidance to identify high risk or vulnerable employees occur; identify related privacy obligations that arise; describe what responsibilities, accommodations, or protocols particularly susceptible employees trigger; and how to encourage these individuals to appropriately protect themselves.
- Sanitation and disinfectant protocols: Guidance on sanitation and disinfectant protocols after a confirmed COVID-19 exposure occurs.
- In-person gathering restrictions: Clear guidance on ongoing restrictions for in-person gatherings for the benefit of employers, employees, and attendees alike.
- Contact tracing: Federal guidance to encourage all levels of government to coalesce around one set of protocols for the timely collection, processing, and sharing of data among private entities and federal, state, and local public health agencies to enable necessary interoperability and data sharing among bordering states and closely situated localities. Guidance should include what records employers should maintain to support contact tracing efforts; how, when, and with whom those records should be shared; how and when to notify employees of a potential exposure; and how to properly address privacy risks or obligations that arise from this activity.
- Compliance: Guidance on how to best encourage and ensure compliance with public-health driven guidelines by employees and customers.
- Immigration guidance: Guidance that provides immediate but temporary government flexibility regarding immigration status, work authorization, and compliance deadlines where overstays are unavoidable due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
- Balancing health and safety and COVID-19 related family circumstances: Employee support guidance on how to balance workplace re-openings, health and safety concerns, and COVID-19 family circumstances.