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A well-coiffed Latino mechanic in a navy blue polo shirt examines a tablet while another mechanic in the background works underneath a car on a lift.
August 22, 2022

Monkeypox: New Communications Guidance for Employers

4 minutes
Stephen Massey

Monkeypox presents unique communications challenges for employers:

  • On the one hand, the majority of diagnosed cases in the U.S. have been among men who have sex with men — yet 61% of all U.S. adults are concerned about the spread of monkeypox, nearly the same as the percentage of gay and bisexual men surveyed.
  • Employers neither want to stoke unnecessary fear — nor stigmatize the communities who are currently at the greatest risk.
  • Although the risk of workplace transmission is low in most settings, employers should consider sharing facts about monkeypox and how to prevent infection.

Our communications guide can help you compose clear messages without stigma. You can customize our sample employee email to communicate with your team.

THE LATEST ON MONKEYPOX

  • 15,433 cases in the U.S. as of August 23rd, up from 3,591 cases on July 26th.
  • It’s a public health emergency. The federal government and four states (California, Illinois, New York and Washington) have issued formal emergency declarations, which will help them respond to the outbreak.
  • It’s getting a new name. The World Health Organization is working on renaming the virus to remove stigma. California is already shifting to calling it “Mpox” or “MPX.”

HOW EMPLOYERS SHOULD RESPOND

  • Offer paid time off for vaccination and recovery from possible side effects. This is especially important for workers who have been exposed to monkeypox and workers who may be more likely to get monkeypox.
  • Have a policy in place for employees who’ve been diagnosed or exposed to monkeypox.
  • If an employee has monkeypox, they should not come to work. 
  • The illness can last for 2 to 4 weeks — so if employees don’t have that much paid sick leave, have a policy in place where they can access other paid time off or apply for short-term disability.
  • Depending on the severity and duration of symptoms, monkeypox could legally be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Affected employees may be entitled to take sick leave pursuant to state law or an employer's policy. 
  • For longer-term absences, the employee's symptoms may be severe enough to be a serious health condition under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Even if an employee doesn't qualify for FMLA leave, employers may have an obligation to reasonably accommodate an employee under the ADA or similar state laws.
  • Remote work should be an option, too, but note that severe pain may make it impossible. However it happens, support employees’ need to isolate for the duration of their illness.
  • Consider updating your COVID-19 self-attestation forms (where employees state whether they have any virus symptoms) to include monkeypox symptoms.
  • Businesses whose employees have close physical contact with customers (for example, spas) should consider asking about monkeypox symptoms in pre-appointment questionnaires, as well.
  • If an employee reports an infection, keep that information confidential. Reach out to close contacts who are at risk of transmission through prolonged, close face-to-face or skin-to-skin contact and assist them with access to testing and paid time off.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Engage your LGBTQ+ employee resource groups or other affinity networks that can help share trusted facts about monkeypox and support workers who may have questions or need extra support finding care or accessing vaccines.
  • Reach out to your local public health department to see if there are other ways your company can support the local response, like hosting a vaccination clinic, organizing a public town hall or sharing information about local support services available to disproportionately impacted populations.

Need help sharing facts about monkeypox? Our Fact Sheet provides information about symptoms, prevention and treatment.