Published Apr 09, 2020 by Kelsey Seeker
During the April 9 COVID-19 Business Forum webinar, presenters from Workforce Solutions and Insperity focused on how employers can effectively implement the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and provided guidance on potential scenarios employers might face.
These insights, along with information about the Texas Shared Work Program and the importance of clear employee communication, highlighted the need for employers to be straightforward with employees during this unprecedented time.
Employers applying for the Texas Shared Work Program must be upfront with employees
During the webinar, Michael Gutierrez, Workforce Solutions’ Human Resources Consultant Manager, outlined the specific of the Texas Workforce Commission’s Shared Work Program and Mass Claims. He showed an example of the Shared Work application and provided advice on how to fill it out.
“The application will ask how employees will be notified in advance and it’s important to the State that you are communicating regularly with your staff during this crucial time. Be honest and involve them as much as possible,” Guitierrez said. “I do believe this pandemic will eventually go away and when you are ready to hire again, you don’t want to have a reputation that you weren’t able to communicate effectively during a time of crisis.”
Guitierrez noted that employers will need to provide the estimated number of employees who will be laid off if they are unable to participate in the program, as well as the list of employees and their social security numbers for those who qualify. He also shared that not every department or unit has to be affected for an employer to participate in the program.
Communication is critical during uncertain times
Be clear on what is expected of employees and communicate through multiple channels, Insperity’s Performance Specialist Houston Region Bonnie Monych shared.
“People want to feel like they are still connected to your organization so use some type of virtual meeting as often as you can,” Monych shared. “At Insperity, we have twice-a-week meetings so everyone can see each other and bring about some type of normalcy.”
Two sets of reasons determine FFCRA’s Emergency Paid Leave qualifications
Jeff Sorrells, Senior Human Resources Specialist at Insperity, explained that FFCRA is an extension of the Family Medical Leave Act for specific COVID-19 situations. FFCRA has expanded to include areas newly hired employees, paid provisions and other factors due to the pandemic.
The reasons for Emergency Paid Leave are broken down into two categories that determine whether an employee is paid at 100% regular rate or if they are pad at two-thirds of regular pay.
The first section includes reasons that apply directly to the employee:
The second set of reasons include that the employee:
Sorrells noted that stay-at-home orders do not necessitate Emergency Paid Leave.
Employer Scenarios with implementing FFCRA
Sorrells also walked through various employer scenarios based on questions submitted by Partnership members. Below are a few of the questions he answered during the webinar:
Can I take the temperature of my employees to determine if they may have the illness?
The Emergency Operations Center for the U.S. Department of Labor originally recommended against it before March 18. The EOC then worked with the CDC and recognized that while it’s OK to take employees’ temperatures, it’s not a foolproof solution. Beyond privacy issues and having someone properly trained, it’s now recognized that people can still be asymptomatic and be a carrier. The EOC is working with the CDC as things are changing on a daily basis.
Am I required to pay my employees who are not working due to a quarantine?
If the employee has been quarantined by a health provider, per the Act, they are due 80 hours of paid sick leave.
What do I do if an employee feels they contracted the COVID-19 virus while performing their duties at work?
If you have a good employee handbook and HR infrastructure policies and procedures in place, you already have what you need to address this. If an employee feels they have been injured or become ill while performing their duties, it is best practice to report that to your workers' comp carrier and let them determine benefits eligibility should it be covered.
An employee is teleworking, may they take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave intermittently while teleworking?
The guidance from the Department of Labor says it is up to the employer whether they can allow this type of leave will be internment.
How would you handle a salaried worker who stepped out six months ago to go to the dentist at 2 p.m. and came back at 3 p.m.? What are you really looking for – are they getting their work done?
If they are getting their work done, it’s not really a benefit to you the employer administratively to now have to keep up with that one hour they had to use help their kid with their schoolwork. Plus you are only required to pay them at two-thirds of pay. So for a salaried, exempt employee, it’s best to ask: are you getting your work done?
Our worksite needs to reduce work schedules to maintain business operations. An employee has just reported symptoms of COVID-19, is he now eligible for FFCRA paid sick leave to supplement the hours that he is not working?
No. The Department of Labor has been very clear that if there is no work available for that employee, who is a part of that affected department, then even if they are diagnosed, they are not eligible for paid sick leave.
The Greater Houston Partnership's COVID-19 Houston Business Forum is a digital series providing the latest information and analysis on the crisis and its economic impact through teleconferences with local experts. To see past webinars, click here. For a list of upcoming webinars, click here. Visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, additional guidance for employers and more information. And sign up for daily email alerts from the Partnership as the situation develops.