Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Workplace

Resources to help your business manage through uncertainty

As communities throughout the world respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we know that this time presents unique challenges for businesses. Here are some tips and recommendations to help you navigate this for your employees and customers. For the most timely information and guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19), please monitor the World Health Organization website.

Thread Connects
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

Lori Winters discusses Coronavirus (COVID-19) impact on businesses

From Lori Winters
Thread’s CEO/Founder

RESOURCE SERIES
COVID-19: Actionable Answers for Business Leaders

Coming Soon! | TBD

We are striving to bring you relevant information that is necessary to tackle the new challenges every business is facing today as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.

As a small business, we understand the importance of making every minute you spend with us really count. We will host new webninars in this series only when critical and actionable new informations is available that may impact your employees and your business.

  • This program is NOT valid for SHRM or HRCI credits
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Catch Up with Past Webinars

Past webinars are arranged chronologically from newest to oldest. Each contains a brief synopsis, a video of the event, and downloadable slides with the key points of the presentation. Get even more tips and information by subscribing to The Daily Thread.

COVID-19 RESOURCE SERIES 2 | TUESDAY 03/24/2020

COVID-19 Answers – Legal: Families First Act & Best Practices for Business Leaders

We joined our expert guest presenter Greg Hare of Ogletree Deakins will discuss the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, as well as sharing business best practices during the pandemic.

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COVID-19 ANSWERS SERIES 1 | FRIDAY 03/20/2020

Now What? Answers for Business Owners/Leaders during COVID-19

We answered some of the top questions for business owners and leaders regarding their organizations and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic … What does the emergency FMLA expansion act require?  How much paid sick leave is required? What if my business slows down? Can employees get unemployment benefits if we reduce their hours? Can we reduce pay rates to survive this? Should we be thinking about layoffs? … and many other critical issues facing business leaders like you.

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 Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and Answers for employers dealing with Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the impact on businesses across the world. We encourage you to submit your own questions which we will cover in the ongoing Webinar Series.

FEATURED QUESTIONS
Your Peers Are Asking

Pay for Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Employees

Pay for Exempt Employees (those not entitled to overtime)
Exempt employees do not have to be paid if they do no work at all for an entire workweek. However, if work is not available for a partial week for an exempt employee, they must be paid their full salary for that week, regardless of the fact that they have done less work. If the point is to save money (and it usually is), it’s best to ensure that the layoff covers the company’s established 7-day workweek for exempt employees. Make it very clear to exempt employees that they should do absolutely no work during any week you’re shut down. If exempt employees do any work during that time, they will need to be paid their normal weekly salary.

Pay for Non-Exempt Employees (those entitled to overtime)
Non-exempt employees only need to be paid for actual hours worked, so single day or partial-week furloughs can be applied to them without worrying about pay implications.

We recommend that you engage in open communication with the affected employees before and during the furlough or temporary layoff period.

What’s the difference between a furlough and a layoff?

First, you should note that the language used when sending employees home for a period of time is less important than communicating your actual intent. Since temporary layoffs and furloughs are only used regularly in certain industries (usually seasonal), you should not assume that employees will know what they mean. Be sure to communicate your plans for the future, even if they feel quite uncertain or are only short-term.

Furlough: A furlough continues employment, but reduces scheduled hours or requires a period of unpaid leave. The thought process is that having all employees incur a bit of hardship is better than some losing their jobs completely. For example, a company may reduce hours to 20 per week for a period of time as a cost-saving measure, or they may place everyone on a two-week unpaid leave. This is typically not considered termination; however, you may still need to provide certain notices to employees about the change in the relationship, and they would likely still be eligible for unemployment. If the entire company won’t be furloughed, but only certain employees, it is important to be able to show that staff selection is not being done for a discriminatory reason. You’ll want to document the non-discriminatory business reasons that support the decision to furlough certain employees and not others, such as those that perform essential services.

Layoff: A layoff involves terminating employment during a period when no work is available. This may be temporary or permanent. If you close down completely, but you intend to reopen in the relatively near future or have an expected reopening date—at which time you will rehire an employee, or all employees—this would be considered a temporary layoff. Temporary layoffs are appropriate for relatively short-term slowdowns or closures. A layoff is generally considered permanent if there are no plans to rehire the employee or employees because the slowdown or closure is expected to be lengthy or permanent.

What if I have a fearful employee who refuses to come to work?

Generally, employees do not have a right to refuse to work based only on a generalized fear of becoming ill. If their fear is not based on objective evidence of possible exposure, you can enforce your attendance policies.

You should be prepared for employees who express anxiety about coming to work and evaluate any request on a case-by-case basis. Consider alternative arrangements such as telecommuting if possible. Employees who are immunocompromised or have other relevant disabilities may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation, such as working from home or taking a leave if working from home is not possible.

If the nature of the employee’s position does not allow telecommuting, and there is no legitimate threat, reiterate the steps they can take to keep themselves safe from contracting the virus and explain the proactive steps you are taking to keep infection risk low in the workplace.

Can we require a doctor’s note to return to work?

Yes, but the CDC asks that you don’t. If the employee’s illness is a “serious health condition” under the FMLA or a “direct threat” under ADA, the employer could be able to require a return-to-work note if the employer complies with the guidelines for requiring such documentation, including, among others, notifying the employee in the initial determination that fitness-for-duty notes will be required and consistently applying the requirement to all FMLA leaves.

Can an employer require employees with COVID-19 to use paid time off for their absence?

Check Families First Act for entitlement to required paid leave first. If not entitled or already used required sick leave, Yes, subject to:

  • The provisions of the employer’s current PTO/vacation policies
  • Any state laws

If an employee wants to take LOA or FMLA, do we have to pay their health insurance? Are we obligated?

With FMLA, you’re supposed to keep benefits going, since they’re still employed. With both FMLA and personal leave, you can stop benefits if the employee fails to pay their portion of the premiums, and you’ve given notice and time to do it (usually 30 days). With FMLA you would need to reinstate benefits upon their return.

Will FMLA cover employees with less than 12 months of service and less than 1250 hours during a 12 month period?

The emergency FMLA under this Families First Act will, yes. Normal FMLA will not.

NEED TO KNOW
Top 10 Questions About Employee Benefits

  1. Are any changes required to your health benefit?
  2. Have you reviewed what your sick leave and short-term disability policies cover?
  3. Do your leave policies comply with new federal mandates?
  4. Are you taking advantage of cost-sharing waivers and telemedicine benefits?
  5. Are you reducing employees’ working hours?
  6. Does your 401(k) plan offer hardship distributions or loans that may apply to COVID-19?
  7. Are your severance and executive compensation agreements affected by furloughs?
  8. Do you have employees teleworking in different states from their normal worksite(s)?
  9. Are you terminating any employer or employee contributions on account of COVID-19?
  10. Have you considered benefit plan options for aiding employees during this emergency?

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Compliance & Legislative

The outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) currently impacting families and business across the country, has mobilized state and federal government organizations in attempts to both slow the spread of the virus and to help Americans manage the personal and financial impact. Employers across industries are in a challenging position and are, no doubt, figuring out how to navigate the situation as it changes every day.

HDHP Coverage for Testing & Treatment

The IRS released Notice 2020-15 to facilitate the nation’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency by removing potential administrative and financial barriers to testing for and treatment of COVID-19. The notice allows for all medical care services and item purchases associated with testing for and treatment of COVID-19 to be disregarded in determining the status of a health plan as a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).

Federal Leave Coverage

Employees who may become ill due to COVID-19 could become eligible to take Family and Medical Leave (FMLA). Most employers are covered by FMLA as long as they have 50 or more employees. FMLA allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave with the assurance of job protection. Coverage to care for an ill family member may also be considered as a qualifying leave purpose.

State & Local Paid Leave Options

More than 30 states or localities have paid sick leave ordinances or paid family and medical leave ordinances already in place, but additional state-level legislation is in progress to offer support for families. Please be sure to check your state or local paid leave requirements for employee and employer eligibility requirements.
Note: The CDC recommends that you do not ask employees for a doctor’s note to approve their paid leave requests.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources

Health and government officials are working together to maintain the safety, security, and health of the American people. Small businesses are encouraged to do their part to keep their employees, customers, and themselves healthy.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

Small business owners in the following designated states and territories are currently eligible to apply for a low-interest loan due to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming. Click here to apply.

Find more information on the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans at: SBA.gov/Disaster.

USB: U.S. Small Business Administration 


HR Help

Workplace health and safety have always been an important part of HR. When faced with Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the potential impacts to your workforce, focus on communication, education, planning, and preparation. 

What and How to Communicate

A well-conceived communication plan will keep your people informed with simple, transparent messages. It’ll help you and your employees better process and manage any changes to day-to-day business. It’ll also help keep everyone cool, calm, and collected in a panic-prone situation.

Focus on: Communication, Education, Planning, and Preparation.

Set the Tone

  • Your communication strategy should show employees you care about them.
  • Share your plan to help keep employees healthy and what actions the business will take when people get sick.
  • Use statements that don’t create a sense of concern, but instill confidence.
  • Provide any available resources, what to do in particular situations, and encourage employees to remain calm.
  • Avoid answering questions prematurely. You may not have all the answers, and while that can feel overwhelming, try to focus on the info you do have and be transparent.

What areas of your business are at risk?

You may already see signs of coronavirus’ impact on your organization. The possibility of a prolonged crisis can disrupt all business areas, from your workforce to third-party dependencies, to supply and distribution.

Let’s look at how you can prepare to address interruptions in the short- and long-term. Partner with other areas of your company to come up with a business continuity plan. If you need an example, take a look at this sample FEMA checklist or check out Ready, a national public service campaign to help people prepare for emergencies.

Preparedness Checklist

  • Review your HR policies. Modify any as needed to give greater flexibility to normal working arrangements.
  • Create a communication plan that provides employees with regular updates.
  • Ensure employees can effectively work from home. Verify you have the tools, technology, capacity, and security measures to support a large remote workforce.
  • Determine your priorities and the minimum staffing requirements needed in case you must operate with a reduced workforce.
  • Identify key employees and ensure other staff members have been trained to cover their absence.

Preparing for a Pandemic: Review Business Continuity Plans Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Fundamentals

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which can make people sick. The strain involved in the current outbreak, COVID-19, causes sometimes severe respiratory symptoms and has never been seen in humans before.

Global & Federal Sources

It’s important to get info directly from the experts to stay up to date on Coronavirus (COVID-19). Changes happen fast.

COVID-19 in Georgia

Check local health official’s reports and status updates to know what’s happening locally.

Thread ENGAGE - Coronavirus (COVID-19): Workplace Resources

HR CONSULTING SERVICES

A partner in your business – Thread Engage helps your organization bridge the gap as you grow, by reducing risk, implementing best practices, training your team and engaging your people.