Should You Fire Employees That Don’t Follow Safety Rules?

Most employers today are concerned with maintaining social distancing protocols. For people that have returned to the office, social distancing and cleanliness is paramount; however, employers everywhere are also asking their employees to remain home if they do not feel well. Whether it’s pride or simply a desire to work no matter what, employees have been coming into the office regardless. Is a headache worth using a sick day? How about a very minor cough? For some, it’s not a lack of respect: it’s the inability to truly classify themselves as being “sick.”

While social distancing is all the rage these days, certain industries must practice other forms of safety measures all-year-round. Construction, electrical, plumbing, machine work–in all of these verticals, practicing proper safety measures are required by law. Here’s the question: if an employee fails to adhere to these rules and regulations often, should they be fired? 

Start With a Written Policy

If an employee repeatedly breaks safety rules, then they should be terminated; however, before they are terminated, employers need to decide how many infractions equal termination. This is why your safety rules must be written clearly. Perhaps after a second infraction, you suspend the employee without pay, and on the third, if they do not correct their behavior, you do fire them.

What To Do About COVID-19 Infractions

There needs to be a checklist of safety requirements in place. For example, some employees may make it mandatory to wear face masks when walking to the bathroom or interacting with a customer. In addition, some employers may make it mandatory for employees to wash their hands at the start and end of their shifts.

Employees who fail to follow these protocols must be disciplined. Since COVID-19 is new, there has to be some kind of spectrum. For example, if someone comes in sick and decides to purposely cough on a co-worker, then this could be grounds for immediate termination. While employers should enforce these social distancing rules, they should provide reassurance to employees who don’t feel well enough to come to work. As stated earlier, many people who don’t feel that they’re “sick enough” to waste a sick day will decide to come to the office. To discourage this behavior, employers could offer more sick days if employees provide proof of illness. 


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