COVID-Related Changes

“I haven’t been paying furloughed employees the emergency paid sick leave but just heard I might need to do it. Am I in trouble?”

Your HR Survival Tip

We have been subjected to ever-changing opinions and rules about COVID-19 since February…and now we have more. Most of these changes have not been backdated so you shouldn’t get in trouble for following the guidance current at that time. The latest changes include:

FFCRA for Non-Working Employees — Originally, only employees actively working were eligible to receive the FFCRA (Families First/CARES) money for emergency paid sick leave or emergency paid childcare leave. Now, anyone still in your employ may qualify for FFCRA money even if there is no available work for them (e.g., furloughed or sitting employees). Note: We don’t believe this applies to employees on a leave of absence.

FFCRA Documentation — You may not require documentation for a COVID-related leave PRIOR to the employee starting the leave. The employees will still need to provide documentation but they may begin the leave and then provide backup as soon as it’s practicable.

CDC Quarantine — The CDC is now only recommending a quarantine of 10 days after a positive test (rather than the original  [click to read more …]

Tool Time

“I’ve always provided the tools my field employees need. Then an employee told me a previous employer made employees use their own tools. How can I implement that?”

Your HR Survival Tip

As you may have noticed, there seem to be laws or lawsuits for nearly everything employment-related in California. There are three things to consider when you have employees who use or need tools in the field:

Employer-provided tools — You provide all the tools, including maintaining and replacing them. You are not able to charge employees for the replacement of lost tools so consider a check-out/check-in system to track your tools.Employee’s tools — In California, you are only able to require employees to use their own tools on the job if you are paying those employees at least twice the state minimum wage (currently $24 or $26 per hour, depending on company size). If you have employees earning less than that, you are responsible for the tools.Paid commute — If you have employees carrying your company tools in their personal vehicle every day, there is the possibility you may be responsible for their commute time and costs. Current lawsuits haven’t yet been settled but it appears a paid  [click to read more …]

Documenting COVID

“What do I need to track for COVID and what do I do with the information?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Running a business has become increasingly difficult as COVID rules and responsibilities keep changing. The one thing we all know is to send an employee home (or tell them not to come to work) when they have symptoms and/or test positive for COVID. But what then?

1) You follow your protocol, which should include finding and notifying those potentially exposed, cleaning the work area of the person who tested positive, etc. When warning about the exposure, you only say “someone you work with has tested positive.” While the employees may figure out who it is, the name can’t come from you due to privacy laws.

2) The next step is to notify your local health department to inform them of a positive case.

3) The last step is determining if this positive test must be reported on your Cal/OSHA Log 300 (that is posted February 1 to April 30 each year). You must list this incident if the employee misses work, is diagnosed by a doctor, has medical treatment beyond first aid, etc. These are the primary things that happen when  [click to read more …]

Careful v. Practical

“I don’t know how to handle all the possible exposures I’m hearing about from employees. Nothing seems to work for both the employee and my company.”

Your HR Survival Tip

Not surprisingly, companies are receiving more and more reports of employees who may have been exposed. We don’t know of any single solution that will work for everyone but we can tell you what some companies are doing.

It’s important to remember that without COVID symptoms, there is no financial help for the employee from the government. The employee must have symptoms AND be talking with a doctor or getting tested to qualify for the Families First money (emergency paid sick leave for 2 weeks).

There are three primary exposure solutions we’re hearing about but each has a negative:

Super Safe — You have an employee who was “possibly exposed” go into self-quarantine for 2 weeks. Give some thought about how many of your employees may be potentially exposed at any one time and that those employees won’t be paid during the quarantine period since they don’t have symptoms. The negative is the employee is unpaid for two weeks and you’re low on headcount that could affect your  [click to read more …]

Pandemic Safety Protocol

Several clients have asked us what a safety protocol should include. We have provided below a very basic plan designed for offices but this is not one of those situations where one plan can work for everyone. You should take these concepts and expand on them based on your work environment for offices or field job sites.

ABC Company Safety Protocol

In order to create a safe working environment for you and for our customers, we have implemented the following protocols:

Before Leaving for Work

You must self-check to confirm you do not have any symptoms.If you do have symptoms, do not go into work but call your supervisor immediately.

Upon Arrival at Work

You must have your temperature taken (and show it is below 100 degrees).You must sign off that you do not have any of the symptoms listed on the sign-off sheet.(Symptoms include cough, headache, the recent loss of taste or smell, fever or chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.)

While at Work

You must wear a face mask/covering over your mouth and nose whenever:You leave your office or work station  [click to read more …]

Broker Trust Broken

“I’ve been working with my insurance broker for many years. Lately, when I’ve asked him a question based on something I heard, I find myself worrying about the answers he gives me.”

Your HR Survival Tip

As with any profession, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the changes in your industry and with technology being used in the industry. Too often, when we start working with a new client, we find the insurance broker doesn’t know the answer to our questions…and we believe they should.

While loyalty is a fabulous thing, you may have to decide if your loyalty really belongs to your broker or to your employees. You may not like “breaking up” with your broker but you do need to take responsibility for the choices you make affecting your employees. We all use brokers to provide us with those choices.

We recently heard a client’s broker say he wasn’t really “techie,” so he was unaware that technology started playing a big role in insurance enrollments years ago. Whether you are enrolling directly online with the carrier or using an online broker-provided service like Ease, being able to have employees enroll online (by smartphone or computer) is  [click to read more …]

Exposed

“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 …]

Job Killers

As if you aren’t dealing with enough while trying to get your business back to some version of normal, it feels like the California legislature has been working against us lately. The CA Chamber of Commerce has provided its annual list of “job killer” bills. A bill gets this designation when the Chamber feels it threatens the state’s economic recovery and may hurt your ability to rehire or maintain employment of workers. The bills below have not yet been passed so there’s still hope.

Please make use of your personal protective equipment (i.e., your chair) before reading:

AB196, AB664, and SB893 Presumption of injury — AB196 will increase workers’ compensation costs by presuming it’s a workplace injury if your “essential worker” contracts COVID-19. AB663 adds to that by requiring public employers and public/private hospitals to provide additional compensation for things like temporary housing costs based on the employee being exposed or contracting a communicable disease, including COVID-19. SB893 focuses on public and private hospitals by presuming certain diseases are caused by the workplace. This will also establish a precedent for expanding this presumption into the private sector.

AB1107 Massive unemployment and tax increases — This will raise employers’ payroll  [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 …]