Emergency Coronavirus Leave, Sick Pay and Your Small Business

To all our clients, friends, and partners, I wanted to share a quick update to be sure you are aware of the most recent business and HR-related changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on small businesses.

The U.S. Treasury, IRS, and U.S. Department of Labor have announced that small and midsized employers (those with less than 500 employees) can begin taking advantage of new refundable payroll tax credits. These credits were designed to reimburse employers for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees. This relief is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and signed by President Trump on 3/18/20. If you know about this new provision, you are most likely feeling concerned with how to follow and administer the leave in addition to what it may mean for small businesses and employees.

If you are unaware or unsure how this impacts you, here is a quick overview of what was signed last week:

The Emergency FMLA & Emergency Sick pay goes into effect on 4/2/20 and sunsets on 12/31/2020. These new provisions apply to almost all businesses with less than 500 employees. Even the smallest of companies are subject to the paid leave provisions and job protection. As you can imagine, small companies that are not typically required to provide paid leave or job-protected leave (like FMLA) are unclear about administering and moving forward with these new regulations.

Given the current business slow down and financial burden, this new paid sick leave creates an overwhelming concern. In response, the IRS & DOL will immediately be offering paid leave credits, dollar for dollar, for companies that are impacted by having to pay the emergency sick leave.

These are essential regulations for our economy and the well-being of our employees and the overall U.S. workforce. Still, it creates many questions: how to administer this leave, who is eligible, how to track, and ultimately how to be reimbursed? This law is still getting defined, and in the days to come, we are supposed to have clear and straightforward guidelines to follow. You can find the full announcement here: Treasury, IRS, and Labor Announcement on FFCRA Implementation.

Meanwhile, there are some things you can and should do to prepare:

  • If you have more than two employees, you’ll need to be able to track your employee’s leave as it relates to the pandemic, so ensure you have a system in place now to do this. Most payroll or HRIS Solutions can do this for you, but a spreadsheet will work too. For the reimbursement, you’ll most likely need to track the time that an employee is unable to work due to the following reasons:
    • They are under quarantine
    • They are experiencing symptoms or a diagnosis of COVID-19
    • They are caring for someone in quarantine, with symptoms or a diagnosis of COVID-19
    • They are caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to the pandemic
  • Add a line to your P&L called COVID-19 and begin tracking all of the additional expenses you have incurred through this pandemic here.

Additionally, as you know, this is a tough time for everyone. No one is unaffected by what is happening globally. As your human resource partner, let’s not forget the human component as we work through this together.

  • Ensure your employees have what they need to work remotely. Providing such resources or services may mean investing in additional equipment for effective remote working and allowing for flexibility relating to childcare needs.
  • Check-in with your employees and make sure managers are doing the same with their teams.
  • Please do what you can to keep morale up during this time. We need leaders now more than ever, be that leader! Use tools to promote social connections (video conferencing, slack, 1:1’s, team meetings, even a virtual happy hour. You can do it, get those creative juices flowing!
  • Employees are watching to see what you do during this critical time: pay attention to the small things, celebrate the wins and highlight the positives in your employer branding and social shares. Give and be generous in what you do.
  • Remind your employees of any telemedicine benefit that you have available. Often medical carriers have this option included. If you are unsure if you do, check with your broker.
  • Remind your employees of your available Employee Assistance Program. Again this may be a benefit included with your medical carrier. EAP programs can help your employees through any sort of stress or mental health concerns and provide Financial & Legal advice. Most programs allow for estate and will planning services as well. Not to insight fear, but these are questions employees are actively asking and thinking about during this time of uncertainty.

My team and I are here to help you through this time, please let us know if we can help in any other way, and if you’d like to schedule a call to review this or any other concerns, you can schedule a time on my calendar here.

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