Employers of all sizes have to deal the difficult situation of responding to an employee’s positive COVID-19 test. Employers are responsible for handling the situation swiftly to protect the health of other employees while preserving the affected employee’s confidentiality.

If you’re in this situation, you may be wondering what you need to do. Here is an overview of how you can respond to finding out an employee has COVID-19.

Responding to the Employee

When an employee notifies you that he or she has tested positive for COVID-19, you should respond calmly and empathetically. While some of the stigma associated with COVID-19 has dissipated, reassure the employee that their identity will remain confidential and help them coordinate taking unpaid leave or paid time off until they’ve recovered. Recommend that they follow CDC guidelines for quarantine and isolation and monitor themselves for the symptoms of COVID-19.

Time Off for COVID-19

While there used to be a grant set up under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for employers to offer paid leave and receive tax credits, that ended in 2021. Most employers now allow employees to use sick time or paid time off while they are out for COVID-19. If paid time off isn’t available, employers should allow unpaid time off for the employee to recover.  If feasible, allow eligible employees who feel well enough to work from home during this time.

Notifying Close Contacts

Without disclosing the identity of the infected employee, it is important to notify close contacts of the employee who tested positive for COVID-19. Recommend that employees refer to the guidance on the CDC website if they have questions about quarantine or isolation. Plan to check in with the employee who tested positive, and any employees who were close contacts regularly to see how they are doing.


Due to the rapid spread and changing risk-levels associated with COVID-19, employers should be prepared to respond to an employee testing positive for the disease. Following CDC guidelines for how long the employee should be away from the office and for cleaning and disinfecting can help keep your employees safe.