“An employee called me to say he might have been exposed to COVID-19 over the weekend. What should I do?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Many people are confused about time off related to COVID-19. As calls from employees reporting possible exposure are increasing, companies are realizing they aren’t quite sure what they can or should do. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides emergency paid sick leave but only if the employee qualifies.

Typically, to qualify for FFCRA paid sick leave, the employee must have symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis. Here are a few scenarios:

Bob has symptoms and decides to quarantine himself for 2 weeks but does NOT seek a medical diagnosis or advice from a doctor.Generally, this will be unpaid time off but Bob could use any accrued sick leave.Bob has symptoms and seeks a medical diagnosis or advice from a doctor.Bob will be eligible for FFCRA emergency paid sick leave for up to 2 weeks.Bob has no symptoms but believes he has been exposed recently and plans to self-quarantine.Until Bob is showing symptoms, this will be unpaid or accrued sick time off.Bob has no symptoms but has a doctor’s note stating he should  [click to read more …]

Reluctant Returns

“I finally received my PPP (Payroll Protection Program) funds but I am finding it hard to get employees to return to work. Unemployment is either paying them more than they earned each week with me or at least enough so they’d rather not work for nearly the same money. What can I do?”

Your HR Survival Tip

You’re not alone with this particular dilemma! We have heard the same thing from several clients. Even those companies that don’t have PPP money but are ready to slowly start back up are having similar problems. However, the PPP money requires you to maintain a certain headcount for the funds to be forgiven so you may have to make a hard decision about those employees.

Employees First

Employees are often making more on unemployment right now due to the extra $600 they are getting each week. You could sympathize with their desire to receive more money right now and allow them to stay on unemployment. However, please keep in mind they are turning down work and therefore, legally, are committing fraud by continuing on unemployment… where they are attesting they are “willing and able to work” each week. You might  [click to read more …]

Forgetting the Laws

There are several laws companies tend to forget when you’re busy. Right now, it’s even easier to ignore some of the employment laws if you’re in survival mode. However, while you may believe you’ll get a free pass because of the pandemic… think again.

California has allowed very few exceptions to the normal employment laws and you will be held accountable for non-compliance if problems from those “forgotten laws” should pop up during a future audit. Here are a few things we’ve noticed:

Meal and rest breaks — Yes, even those employees working at home must still follow the usual timing for meal and rest breaks and those meal breaks need to show up on timecards.Scheduling — Employees often like to create their own schedules when working at home. However, this can create payroll issues due to split work shifts (more than 1 hour between their morning and afternoon shifts) or overtime pay because they were in a flow and didn’t want to stop working that day. Maintain your regular work hours even with remote workers.Classification issue #1 — If you have exempt, salaried employees who now have too few employees reporting to them (the equivalent of  [click to read more …]

Using Families First Money

“I have an employee who has been out for a week and I want to pay her with the Families First money I’ve heard about. How do I do it?”

Your HR Survival Tip

The Families First money is only available when the employee is personally and directly affected by COVID-19. Employees may be eligible for either the emergency Paid Sick Leave (ePSL) and/or the emergency FMLA (eFMLA). We will only cover the ePSL in this article.

As the employer, you must first certify your employee meets one of the allowed qualifications and you have the documentation required by the IRS so you can be reimbursed for paying the employee. Please keep in mind that shelter-in-place orders by the government are not considered to be a personal order of quarantine and do not qualify for this money.

When someone informs you they are being personally affected by COVID:

Obtain the certification required, then review it to make sure they qualify. They either need to provide the required documentation to back up their claim or, if unable to obtain a doctor’s note, write a statement about why they can’t work. The doctor’s note works for the statement as long as  [click to read more …]

New Bills Proposed

Everyone is focused on the effects of COVID-19 and we thought it was time to give you something else to think about. Life, and California legislators, keep finding ways to challenge business owners. Proposed bills affecting employers this legislative session include:

AB3216 – Currently companies with 50+ employees are subject to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which is very much like the federal FMLA with a few exceptions. It provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off with job protection. This bill proposes two things: (1) to change CFRA so companies with 1+ employees are subject to this Act and (2) allow the 12 weeks to be used for diagnosed COVID-19 quarantine for the employee or close family. Bringing CFRA down to such small companies could be devastating unless it’s only for COVID-19 related situations…but it’s not clear.AB2999 – This bill wants employers to provide 10 days of unpaid bereavement leave for employees who have worked at least 60 days prior to the leave. The employee could only use this leave for specific family members and would need to provide written proof of the death. Whether a company provides 1 day or 10, it usually never seems  [click to read more …]

Need Work?

“I’ve either laid off or furloughed most of my employees but am still trying to hold on to my core group. What happens when there is no work for them (or me) to do?”

Your HR Survival Tip

While our current situation wasn’t part of the plan when you were thinking it would be nice for a little downtime, it’s here and we need to make the best of it. It’s been very interesting to hear about new products and services being offered right now that have only been created since “normal” work was no longer an option.

There are several industries still able to do business but there are many who have slowed down or stopped. Rather than getting depressed about what we can’t change, focus on what you and your employees can do. Having a little time on your hands is perfect for creating, reorganizing, and thinking about your business needs going forward. You may not be able to hire everyone back the moment the shelter-in-place order is lifted, but you can start preparing to have a better and stronger business.

Keep yourself and your employees busy with the things you previously put off because everyone was too busy:

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Paid Leaves Effective 4/1/2020

Employers with 1 to 500 employees are subject to this new federal law (H.R. 6201). Effective 4/1/2020, it provides temporary benefits for employees who are directly impacted by COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Both part-time and full-time employees are eligible.Employees are NOT eligible for these benefits if they are on a leave of absence or furlough and are not working at the time they become eligible.

We expect to hear that companies with under 50 employees may be excluded if the required benefits would jeopardize the viability of the business. Clearer guidelines are expected soon. It appears the exemption would only be for the childcare leave within the Emergency FMLA (see below). This law is set to expire on 12/31/2020.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

Employers must pay employees for up to 80 hours (or two weeks) of paid sick leave at the regular rate for qualified full- or part-time employees. The regular rate is calculated from the average compensation over the past six months. There is no minimum length of employment to be eligible and prior absences do not count against this leave.

The company must provide two weeks (up to 80 hours) of additional paid sick leave to qualified employees. This  [click to read more …]

Answers to Questions

As events are being cancelled and bars, nightclubs, restaurants, gyms, etc. are being closed, everyone is worried about their employees and their business. We are getting a lot of questions on what employers could or should be doing during this national emergency. We’ve tried to provide a few answers for you here:

Your business interruption insurance won’t cover your losses during a pandemic.Your workers’ compensation insurance won’t cover employees who have been exposed because it’s impossible to prove it was a work-related illness.State disability insurance won’t be available to employees unless they have medical certification, which doesn’t appear to be easily available at this time. However, employees can apply if they are diagnosed and have a doctor’s note.Employees cannot decide on their own to stay home from work as a precaution. They can only make that choice if they are truly in imminent danger. However, you can approve an unpaid leave of absence.You may ask for a doctor’s note stating they should stay home and you can ask for a doctor’s note before letting them return to work if they’ve missed any work due to illness.You may send employees home and use sick (if available) or unpaid time off  [click to read more …]

Working Remotely

“I have employees who want to work from home. However, we’ve never done this before and I’m not sure how it works.”

Your HR Survival Tip

There has never been a higher demand for the ability to work from home as there is right now. But the demand was high even six months ago because technology continues to improve and many workers prefer to work from their own home. First, however, your business needs to be structured and prepared.

If you look beyond today’s health concerns, the ability to work remotely has and will continue to be considered a benefit only available or offered to certain employees. Many industries aren’t able to function without employees on-site, such as manufacturing, transportation, construction, and those using laboratories.

An employee might think it’s easy for them to work from home, particularly if they are an office worker. However, as a business owner, you need to think of the whole picture:

Timekeeping — Are employees able to record time worked online from any computer? How can you ensure they are still taking meal and rest breaks? Are you set up to use electronic signatures?Productivity — What electronic methods do you have set  [click to read more …]

Coronavirus Summary

“Employees are starting to ask about working from home so they won’t be exposed to the coronavirus. I know everyone is worried but I’m not prepared for a remote workforce.”

Your HR Survival Tip

It’s important to understand we aren’t medical specialists of any kind. However, we have been receiving a lot of information about how to handle the current situation and wanted to share some of it.

Experts are considering the risk levels to be very low at this time and are asking people not to panic. While there is no vaccine, they remind us to act the same as when the flu is going around:

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use a sanitizer containing at least 70% alcoholAvoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed handsCover your cough and sneeze with a tissue (then throw it away)Stay home from work if you feel flu-like symptomsFrequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces used often

There has been a lot of information about masks but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state most masks won’t help. If you’re healthy and wear a mask, you’ve gained nothing. If you’re sick and wear a mask, it  [click to read more …]