How the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Helps Your Business

In this blog we discuss the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into federal law and will go into effect on April 2, 2020. To help you stay informed and avoid making drastic decisions, here’s what you need to know about the FFCRA right now.

The four elements of this law that are most relevant to Hawaii employers and employees are:

  1. Free COVID-19 testing
  2. Paid job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  3. 80 hours of paid sick leave
  4. Emergency-funded unemployment insurance.

It is important to note that COVID-19 related FMLA and sick leave is only applicable to companies with less than 500 employees.

Additionally, the Department of Labor (DOL) has recently announced that it will not enforce the Act for 30 days after its enactment. This 30-day period is to allow employers to come into compliance with the Act. The DOL will not bring an enforcement action against any employer for violations of the Act as long as the employer has acted “reasonably and in good faith” to comply with the Act. Instead, the DOL will focus on assisting employers to comply with the Act during this 30-day period.

Here is a brief summary of each element:

1. Free COVID-19 testing

100% of COVID-19 testing will be free to employers and employees.

2. Paid job-protected leave under the COVID-19 related FMLA

Until December 31, 2020, employees of qualifying businesses are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the FMLA. To qualify, employees must:

  • Be employed for at least 30 days before the first day of their leave; when they return, they must be restored to the position they held before their leave.
  • Demonstrate they are unable to work (or telework) because they must care for their child under the age of 18 years old due to the COVID-19 related closure of the child’s school or child care facility/program

If an employee qualifies:

  • The first ten (10) days of such leave will be unpaid unless the employee chooses to substitute accrued vacation, personal leave or sick leave. The employer cannot require an employee to do so.
  • After the first 10 days, employees are entitled to COVID-19 related FMLA leave for the next 10 weeks at two-thirds (⅔) the employee’s pay rate, but capped at $200 per day, up to $10,000 total.
  • Part-time employees must be paid based on the average number of hours worked for the six months prior to taking this leave. Employees who have not worked for at least six months prior to taking this leave may receive an amount equal to their reasonable expectation at hiring of the average number of hours the employee would ordinarily be scheduled to work.
  • This COVID-19 related paid leave is paid by the employer. Employers can retain and access funds they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If there is not enough payroll taxes to cover the cost of this leave, employers will be able to file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS, which expects to process such requests in two weeks or less. The IRS has stated that it will provide more information on how to file such a request during the week of March 23, 2020.

3. 80 hours of COVID-19 related paid sick leave for employees who cannot work (or work remotely) because they must take care of their children.

Until December 31, 2020 employees of qualifying businesses will receive 80 hours of paid sick leave, in addition to any sick leave provided by employers as of March 18, 2020, being tested or diagnosed. There are no required minimum days of employment before a covered employee can qualify for COVID-19 related sick leave.

To qualify, the employee must be unable to work (or telework) due to any of these reasons:

  • Employee was ordered to self-quarantine (employee entitled to its full salary, but capped at $511 per day and $5,110 total).
  • Employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis (employee entitled to its full salary, but capped at $511 per day and $5,110 total).
  • Employee is caring for an individual who must self-quarantine (employee is entitled to ⅔ of the employee’s pay but capped at $200 per day and $2,000 total)
  • Employee is caring for a child under 18 years old because the child’s school or child care is unavailable due to COVID-19 (employee is entitled to ⅔ of the employee’s pay but capped at $200 per day and $2,000 total)
  • Employee is experiencing “substantially similar conditions specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services”. (employee is entitled to ⅔ of the employee’s pay but capped at $200 per day and $2,000 total)

Other considerations:

  • The covered employee may take up to 80 hours (pro-rated for part-time employees) of COVID-19 related sick leave.
  • Employers cannot require employees to use other paid leave before using paid sick leave.
  • This COVID-19 related paid sick leave is paid by the employer. Employers can retain and access funds they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If there is not enough payroll taxes to cover the cost of this leave, employers will be able to file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS, which expects to process such requests in two weeks or less. The IRS has stated that it will provide more information on how to file such a request during the week of March 23, 2020.
  • COVID-19 related sick leave is in addition to any existing sick leave policy provided by employers as of March 18, 2020.

4. Emergency unemployment insurance

Of the total amount budgeted by this law, $500 million will fund COVID-19 related unemployment benefits in states where unemployment compensation claims will increase by 10% over the same quarter in the prior calendar year. We expect Hawaii to qualify for this.

Want more helpful info? Visit proservice.com/coronavirus

Is it Time to Implement Remote Work for Your Employees?

In this blog we explain what steps it takes for your business and employees to work remotely.

After weeks of spreading across the mainland, COVID-19 has officially arrived in Hawaii, with cases on all islands. Many employers have already sent their workforce home to work remotely, while others may be wondering if it’s time to take that step, or whether it’s even possible for their business.

The decision to shift to remote work isn’t easy. Here’s what employers need to know.

  • Social distancing can slow the spread of the disease: First and foremost, remember that the CDC is recommending Americans practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of coronavirus. This can help prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed, saving lives. So by having your employees work from home, you’re not only protecting their health, but the safety of our entire community.
  • Many employees are ready for this: We live in a digital world, so working remotely is not new. Even if your employees haven’t officially worked from home before now, many people are already accustomed to interacting online, using digital tools, and learning new technology. Each business is unique, but chances are, making this transition might be easier than you think.
  • How to determine if your employees can work remotely: Maybe you’ve determined that it’s time to pull the trigger on social distancing, and you want to send your employees home. What next? Here are four steps to follow for guidance as you work toward the transition:

Step 1: Identify the employee's core work

Look at your employee’s job, and make a list of the key responsibilities and tasks that they usually perform. “Core work” involves the activities that take up at least 70% of your employee’s usual work hours. If you’re not sure, talk with your employee about the day-to-day tasks that take up most of their time.

Step 2: Assess in-person requirements

Review the employee’s responsibilities, and identify any activities that require them to be physically on-site. For example, an accountant or admin may do a lot of tasks that could be handled over the phone or on the computer, like record-keeping, consulting with clients, or calling clients to remind them about appointments. Other roles can only be done in person, like cooking, stocking shelves, cleaning hotel rooms, or providing dental hygiene services. 

If an employee’s job doesn’t involve a lot of tasks that have to be done in person, consider transitioning them to work from home. If you’re not sure, ask yourself:

  • Does this employee interact with customers face-to-face regularly?
  • Can the employee’s tasks be done by phone, or by using email to communicate with clients?
  • What tasks, if any, would not get done if the employee was not physically on-site?
  • Does this person have enough volume of work they can do at home to keep them busy for days or weeks?
  • If the employee’s primary job can’t be done remotely, are there other tasks they could be assigned until business gets back to normal?

 

Step 3: Evaluate resources and access

Maybe you’ve determined that an employee doesn’t need to be physically in the office to do their core work. But do they have the right resources and access to do their job at home? Determine what tools the employee needs to do their job. For example:

  • Desktop or laptop computer
  • Internet access
  • Secure access to applications and data
  • Online communication and collaboration tools like Zoom or Google docs
  • Home phone or cell phone with adequate data

Once the employee is set up to work from home, consider trying it out. Schedule a time for the employee to test the remote work experience and identify any problems. Make sure the employee’s manager is on hand to provide feedback, along with IT support to help with troubleshooting.

Step 4: When working from home isn't possible

In a perfect world, employees could transition seamlessly to their home office, where they would be healthy and productive until it’s safe to come back to work. But in reality, that may not always be possible. If you’re not able to assign remote work, or your business relies on in-person activity, like retail stores or health-care providers, there are still things you can do to reduce risk for your employees and customers. Consider these alternatives to provide more distance and minimize the risk of infection:

  • Stagger shifts to have fewer people working side-by-side.
  • Reduce your operating hours or shorten the lengths of shifts to limit potential exposure
  • Look for ways to increase the physical space between employees and customers, such as using windows for interactions or implementing curbside drop-off and pickup.
  • Limit the number of customers and employees in your workplace at any given time.
  • Post signage at entrances asking people not to enter if they have symptoms, and suggesting they send a friend in instead.
  • Provide staff with clear instructions and expectations around hygiene, such as using gloves, staying home if sick, and proper hand-washing.

Make the best decision for your employees and community

Following the news about coronavirus is stressful for everyone. Employers have the additional worry of trying to figure out how best to take care of their employees and customers in a rapidly changing situation. While making the decision to work from home isn’t easy, by staying calm and following a step-by-step process, you’ll be able to come up with the plan that’s best for everyone.

Want to get more practical advice on how to manage your business through COVID-19? Visit our Employer’s Guide to Coronavirus.

 

How We’ve Been Preparing to Protect You

Ben Godsey discusses the preparations that ProService has taken to ensure that support continues for the local community during these challenging times.

Aloha,

I would like to share with you the preparations ProService has been taking to ensure we continue to support our community during these challenging and rapidly changing times.

Since late February, we have tested modifications to our operating practices and remote work protocols to protect the health and safety of our clients and employees. Our Hawaii Employers’ Guide to the Coronavirus includes much of what we have put into practice. Please check it regularly for the latest actions, along with useful worksheets and tactics you can download and use.  In addition, many of our clients have requested more detail on what ProService is doing, so here I am sharing more in the hopes it helps our entire community make decisions that protect your employees, customers, and ongoing business.

Remote Work

Two weeks ago, we quietly started testing remote work among all our teams. Effective Monday Mar 16, we are running operations with 100% of our employees working remotely. We are learning how to keep our people motivated and accountable, while balancing the new challenges of working from home.

Virtual Human Resources Consultations

Our teams of HR Consultants and Benefits, Payroll, HR, and Safety experts are consulting days, nights, and weekends via phone, email, video, and text to help local business owners make the best decisions and support business continuity.  

Virtual Trainings and Webinars

Last week, we began migrating all our scheduled in-person trainings and consultations online, and/or have postponed non business-critical workshops. See last week’s well-attended webinar: Prepare. Don’t Panic. Employers & Coronavirus.  Please check our schedule of upcoming  webinars & trainings

Cancelled All In-Person Events and Meetings

Last week, we cancelled all of our in-person meetings and events.

Technology

All our employees are equipped with laptops, secure & confidential virtual access to all company and employee records, and Zoom video calling capability so that data continues to be protected and secure, and we can stay connected via email, phone or video conferencing. 

Over-Communicating with Our Employees

We use a number of methods to stay connected with, and keep our teams focused on, the most critical priorities, every day. This includes multiple “huddles” among different teams and functions, regular company-wide communications of the day’s priorities.

 

We believe all of this helps protect the health and safety of our community.  These are trying times and we will do everything we can to offer our advice to help all Hawaii businesses make it through. 

Mahalo,

Ben Godsey