COVID-19: Businesses, Employers, and Workers
This page offers information and resources to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in non-health care settings. See the Department of Health Services (DHS) Health Care Providers webpage for information that is specific to health care settings.
Employers will find resources and recommendations for protecting employees, clients, and customers.
Workers will find resources for staying safe in the workplace, information about financial assistance (including options for health insurance and no- and low-cost health care).
Four steps to stay safe
Effective August 11, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidance emphasizing a four-step plan for individuals to protect themselves from COVID-19. These also apply to the workplace. They are:
People of older age, those with disabilities, or anyone with a weakened immune system, or people with other underlying medical conditions (including pregnancy) are at higher risk for severe infection. During times of medium and high COVID-19 Community Levels, people with high risk and their close contacts should consider wearing a well-fitted filtering mask, such as an n-95, or respirator. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), workers with disabilities may be legally entitled to reasonable accommodations that protect them from the risk of contracting COVID-19 if, for example, they cannot be protected through vaccination, cannot be vaccinated, or cannot use face coverings. Employers should consider taking steps to protect these at-risk workers as they would unvaccinated workers, regardless of their vaccination status.
The best way to protect people from severe COVID-19 infection is to make sure they are fully vaccinated and have received their booster shots. Employers can encourage boosters and vaccinations by offering them at work, by giving time off for vaccinations, or by making policies that require vaccination. Many employee vaccination requirements have been very effective at raising vaccination rates. See the Wisconsin Vaccine Guidance for All Businesses from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) for more ideas on promoting vaccination in the workplace.
People who have been exposed to COVID-19 should wear a high quality (n-95 or similar) mask for five days, and then take a screening test to make sure they aren't infected.
Support your workers by giving them paid time off when they are sick. Offer them a COVID-19 screening test, or encourage them to test on their own. Individuals can order free COVID-19 tests. People who are infected with COVID-19 need to isolate for a minimum of five days.
Companies that took steps during the pandemic to implement Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) rules should not be discouraged by these changes. Your organization is more resilient as a result of policies like paid time off for vaccination, vaccination requirements and masking or testing of unvaccinated employees.
Although these steps should be taken by every individual, employers can still take steps to protect the health of their workforce and business by:
- Keeping people in your workplace up-to-date on your local COVID-19 Community Level. You can find the level for your county on the DHS COVID Data webpage.
- Making your own masking and hand-washing policies that protect employees, customers, or clients.
- Encouraging workers to prioritize their health by staying home when sick.
Resources for employers, and workers
From Wisconsin Division of Public Health:
- List of COVID-19 vaccinators that are willing to support community-based, mobile, or homebound COVID-19 vaccination requests. Please note that WI DHS will not play a role in the coordination of these events, and all details should be coordinated with the vaccination partner directly.
- Recommendations for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation among migrant and seasonal agricultural workers (PDF) – September 1, 2022.
From OSHA on Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.
From the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene’s Occupational Health Division (WisCon):
- Free consultations and on-site assessments to help employers maximize exposure controls.
- COVID-19 Preparedness, Prevention, and Response Plan template (Docx) that businesses can use to document facility-specific COVID-19 workplace protocols.
A quick guide to COVID-19 prevention in the workplace, P-03297 (PDF) from Wisconsin Occupational Health Surveillance.
Frequently asked questions
The four steps for limiting the spread of COVID-19 are:
- Know your risk.
- Protect yourself – Stay up-to-date on vaccines and boosters, and consider wearing a mask if your area's COVID-19 Community Level is High.
- Take action if exposed. Wear a mask for five days, and take a COVID-19 test on day five.
- Take action if you're sick or test positive. Isolate from others if you have symptoms, and take a COVID-19 test. People who test positive should isolate for at least five full days.
Every business and organization should have a plan to prevent COVID-19 by protecting employees, educating customers, and keeping your building or environment safe and sanitary.
Policies and programs
- Analyze sick leave policies and consider modifying them to make sure ill workers are not in the workplace. Make sure employees are aware of and understand these policies.
- Analyze and consider modifying any policies that penalize employees for taking sick leave.
- Analyze additional flexibilities, which might include giving advances on future sick leave and allowing employees to donate sick leave to each other.
The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread between people indoors, especially in poorly ventilated areas with limited air exchange. Effective ventilation systems can help reduce viral particle concentrations and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in your facility. In most cases, new building ventilation systems are not required. However, ventilation system upgrades or improvements can increase safety by reducing the potential for COVID-19 to spread through the air. Consult experienced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals when considering changes to HVAC systems and equipment. Here are some tips for ensuring your facility is properly ventilated.
- Make sure air filters in your HVAC system are properly sized and within their recommended service life.
- Open windows and doors, when weather conditions allow, and use fans to increase the effectiveness of open window.
- Review DHS's COVID-19 Ventilation Checklist, F-02771 (PDF) for additional considerations.
- See CDC's webpage for detailed guidance on building ventilation to prevent COVID-19.
Cleaning and disinfecting
According to the CDC, the virus that causes COVID-19 can land on surfaces. It is possible for people to become infected if they touch those surfaces and then touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. In most situations, the risk of infection from touching a surface is low. The most reliable way to prevent infection from surfaces is to regularly wash hands or use hand sanitizer.
For more information, see the:
Employees who test positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19 should:
- Stay home and isolate from other people for at least five full days. Day 0 is the first day symptoms began or the day that the positive COVID-19 test was taken (if they do not have symptoms).
If the employee has symptoms, they can end isolation after five full days if they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and their other symptoms have improved. They should continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others in their home and in public for an additional five days after their five-day period of isolation.
See the CDC’s webpage on ending isolation for more information.
Resources for workers
- The Working Safely fact sheet, P-02805 (available in English, Hindi, Hmong, Mandarin, Somali, and Spanish) provides information for workers who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The COVID-19: Response Resources for Wisconsinites webpage provides information about a variety of financial resources that are available to help with income, housing, food, and more.
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has information on COVID-19 and Worker’s Compensation.
The UW-Madison's School for Workers has a variety of information on COVID-19 and workplace safety, unemployment insurance, health care, and more.
WEDC has a one-page document on Mental Health Guidelines (in English, Hmong, and Spanish) with suggestions and resources to support workers’ mental health during COVID-19.
Private sector employees
Contact your personnel department to find out what your employer’s COVID-19 safety plan is.
If you believe that your employer’s policy is not protecting workers from COVID-19, you can contact your OSHA regional office by phone or online at the OSHA website. Many complaints are handled informally by OSHA. There are whistleblower provisions designed to protect employees who file a complaint from losing employment or pay, and OSHA has a whistleblower liaison.
Public sector employees
Contact your personnel department to find out what your employer’s COVID-19 safety plan is. If you believe that your employer’s policy is not protecting workers from COVID-19, you can send questions or concerns to the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) Tech mailbox. You can also file a complaint or concern on the DSPS webpage. Click on “file a complaint” on the right side of the page to reach an online form. Make sure to enter your category and profession in the drop-down boxes to route your question, concern, or complaint to the right person.
Facility-wide public health investigation data
View the latest facility-wide public health investigation data by county or healthcare emergency readiness coalition (HERC) region.
Coping tips for workers and families
Altered family routines. New financial pressures. Worry for yourself and your loved ones. Facing uncertainty at work, interrupted employment, or the increased risks that come with working an essential job. There is no doubt that COVID-19 is difficult for people throughout Wisconsin. Adapting to these changes can be stressful for you and your family. But with self-care, the support of your loved ones, and a few healthy coping strategies, you can manage and reduce the pressure you may feel at work or at home.
Finding healthy ways to cope with challenges is more important than ever. Resilient Wisconsin offers strategies for practicing self-care, maintaining social connections, and reducing stress and anxiety.
Well-Being in the Workplace: Support and Resources for Coping with COVID-19 Stress
For workers: English | Spanish | Hmong
For employers: English| Spanish | Hmong