The last month has been interesting, dramatic, and stressful as the country has taken small and large measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Employers nationwide are struggling with how to deal with these changes. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions as well as links to several resources that employers may find helpful.
COVID-19 Workplace FAQ's
- Post signs about hand washing
- Provide hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes around the office
- Assign someone (or yourself) to periodically wipe down frequently touched surfaces
- Cancel non-essential in-person gatherings
- Make meetings virtual, or if that’s not feasible, hold them in a larger space than generally necessary for the size of the group
- Stop or limit business travel
- Send sick employees home (check for state reporting time pay requirements)
- Encourage employees to stay home if they don’t feel well
- Bonus risk reduction: even if an employee doesn’t have accrued paid sick leave, provide it. An employee is much more likely to stay home when sick if they know they won’t lose income.
- Bonus risk reduction: encourage employees who have work that can be done remotely to work from home, even if they feel fine. Working from home was becoming significantly more common (and a requirement of some jobseekers) prior to COVID-19, and now is a perfect time to give it a test drive if you haven’t already.
If we choose to close temporarily, do we need to pay employees?
It depends on the employee’s classification.
Non-exempt employees only need to be paid for actual hours worked. For these employees, you may:
- Pay the employee for the time, even though they did not work;
- Require they take the time off unpaid;
- Require they use any available vacation time or PTO; or
- Allow employees to choose between taking an unpaid day or using vacation or PTO.
All four options are compliant with state and federal law. We generally recommend option 4—allowing but not requiring employees to use vacation time or PTO. If your office is required to close by health authorities and your state has a sick leave law, employees may be able to use accrued paid sick leave during the closure.
Exempt employees must be paid their regular salary unless the office is closed for an entire workweek and they do no work at all from home. You can, however, require them to use accrued vacation or PTO during a closure if you have a policy that indicates you will do so, or if this has been your past practice. When it comes to accrued vacation or PTO, it is safest to give employees advance notice if there are situations where you will use their accrued hours whether they like it or not.
If we close temporarily, will employees be able to file for unemployment insurance?
Depending on the length of the closure, employees may be able to file for unemployment insurance. Waiting periods range from 1-3 weeks and are determined by state law. Be prepared to respond to requests for verification or information from the state UI department if you close for longer than the mandatory waiting period.
We’ll keep monitoring the COVID-19 situation as it develops and update the FAQ as needed. Keep checking this blog for timely guidance over the coming weeks and months.