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COVID-19 FAQ’s For Businesses

COVID-19 FAQ’s is a resource center for businesses. The questions here came directly from local, Nevada-based businesses. The answers provided by experts at HRinDemand and our partners are meant to help business owners and HR professionals navigate this unprecedented crisis and understand the compliance issues that every small business now faces. We will offer the most up-to-date resources on COVID-19. Look for date stamps and keep checking back for additional questions and answers. To submit a question, please use the form below. For additional HR assistance contact our team here.

COVID-19

Each covered employer must post notices such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises. An employer may satisfy this requirement by emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees, or posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website. For downloadable posters visit our COVID-19 Resources page.

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No. Small businesses are not automatically exempt from the paid sick leave and paid FMLA requirements of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act. Regardless of the number of employees, be prepared to comply – provide paid sick leave and paid FMLA to employees beginning Wednesday, April 1. The exemption will be difficult to secure. Businesses will be reimbursed which will include tax credits. Learn more.

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Most companies have now implemented full-time remote work policies due to COVID-19. HRinDemand has created downloadable guides for employees and managers to assist in the process.

The manager’s guide helps leaders navigate new remote working policies and procedures. It offers tips and recommendations to assist supervisors in improving the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.

The employee’s guide helps remote workers organize their new workflow and provides tips and self-evaluation methods to improve engagement and stay on task.

Downloads

Manager’s Work From Home Guide

Employee’s Work From Home Guide

Sample Telecommuting Policy

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Defining Each Term

  • A furlough is a mandatory, temporary, unpaid leave.
  • A layoff is a full separation from the company. Some layoffs come with an expectation that the worker may return to work. Some layoffs do not.
  • Pay cuts are asking employees to either work less and get paid less or do the same work for less pay.

Understanding the Implication of Each

Furlough Pros

Furloughs help companies weather a financial storm in a number of ways.

  1. Unlike layoffs, furloughs reduce labor costs without adding new costs such as severance packages and outplacement services.
  2. When business improves, employers do not have to pay for recruiting, selecting, socializing and training new employees because the furloughed workers can pick up where they left off.
  3. In general, furloughed employees should be eligible for Unemployment Benefits as long as all other state eligibility factors are met.

Furlough Cons

  1. Unfortunately, furloughs bring financial and psychological hardship to the affected workers.
  2. There could be a time limit to Furloughs, typically one year.
  3. When a furlough is for less than one full workweek and a salaried, exempt worker performs any work during that week, the employer must pay the exempt employee’s full weekly salary.

Layoff Pros

  1. Employees may collect Unemployment Benefits.

Layoff Cons

  1. Layoffs can have more-significant implications for company morale than furloughs.
  2. If a consistent selection process isn’t used, liability increases. Without a set process to follow, it would be impossible to defend the selection decision and a claim of wrongful termination could have merit.
  3. Employers are more likely to permanently lose laid-off employees.

Wage Cut Pros

  1. Employers generally have the flexibility to offer hourly employees fewer hours and workdays.
  2. Employees may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. This is not guaranteed and could essentially be considered a con instead of a pro.
  3. Employees feel more secure.

Wage Cut Cons

  1. Employers can’t reduce weekly hours and correspondingly reduce compensation for exempt employees.
  2. Employees may only be eligible for partial unemployment benefits.
  3. Employees may no longer be eligible for the employer’s health insurance if their hours are reduced significantly. But, check with your benefits broker and your health insurance carrier as many are offering flexibility during this crisis.

Take Away

Furloughs often are the best option for those that can afford them. But for some, layoffs will be unavoidable. In both cases, businesses should encourage workers to apply for unemployment benefits immediately to ensure the maximum compensation possible.

Any employer considering layoffs or a furlough must carefully consider:

  • All state and local laws.
  • Company policies, such as paying out vacation, sick or PTO. Everything must be consistently maintained – do as you’ve always done.
  • The state emergency declarations and laws issued under the pandemic.
  • Federal law, including any relief package.
  • Notice obligations under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

The WARN Act requires advance notice when a mass layoff or plant closing occurs that results in an employment loss for a requisite number of people. It is important to know the applicable thresholds for WARN Act coverage. The federal WARN Act covers employers of 100 or more full-time employees and layoffs of 500 or more employees. It also covers employers of 50 to 499 employees if those workers constitute at least one-third of the workforce.

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The IRS & DOL will offer paid leave credits, dollar for dollar, for companies that are impacted by having to pay the emergency sick leave. Here is how to administer the leave and how to track it for reimbursement:

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. Be sure you have a system in place to do this.  Also, be sure to designate a Sick Pay Bank and an EFMLA Paid Bank – you must be able to differentiate the paid time separately from your existing paid time off programs. Ensure that employees are submitting, in writing, requests for time off. If that isn’t possible, be sure to have the supervisor document it as such. It is recommended that a time off request form, whether contained in a system or on paper, is submitted to show that the employee identified the need for this kind of paid time off and is then labeled as such. Most timekeeping systems, payroll or HRIS Solutions can do this for you but a spreadsheet will work too. For the reimbursement, you will 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 company’s P&L called Covid-19. Then begin tracking all of the additional expenses you have incurred through this pandemic on this line of your company’s P&L.

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On 3/20/2020 the U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the U.S. Department of Labor (Labor) announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees. This relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act), signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020.

The Act will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The legislation will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.

Download the Memo from the IRS

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Yes, in many cases. See the guidelines for clarification. Or visit the CISA website for more.

The Critical Manufacturing Sector is crucial to the economic prosperity and continuity of the United States. A direct attack on or disruption of certain elements of the manufacturing industry could disrupt essential functions at the national level and across multiple critical infrastructure sectors.

Critical Manufacturing Sectors

The Critical Manufacturing Sector identified several industries to serve as the core of the sector:

  • Primary Metals Manufacturing
    • Iron and Steel Mills and Ferro Alloy Manufacturing
    • Alumina and Aluminum Production and Processing
    • Nonferrous Metal Production and Processing
  • Machinery Manufacturing
    • Engine and Turbine Manufacturing
    • Power Transmission Equipment Manufacturing
    • Earth Moving, Mining, Agricultural, and Construction Equipment Manufacturing
  • Electrical Equipment, Appliance, and Component Manufacturing
    • Electric Motor Manufacturing
    • Transformer Manufacturing
    • Generator Manufacturing
  • Transportation Equipment Manufacturing
    • Vehicles and Commercial Ships Manufacturing
    • Aerospace Products and Parts Manufacturing
    • Locomotives, Railroad and Transit Cars, and Rail Track Equipment Manufacturing

Products made by these manufacturing industries are essential to many other critical infrastructure sectors. The Critical Manufacturing Sector focuses on the identification, assessment, prioritization, and protection of nationally significant manufacturing industries within the sector that may be susceptible to manmade and natural disasters.

Critical Manufacturing Resources

Contact Information

There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.  See the guidance on the Essential Critical infrastructure Workforce.

Chemical Sector

The Department of Homeland Security is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Chemical Sector.

Commercial Facilities Sector

The Department of Homeland Security is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Commercial Facilities Sector, which includes a diverse range of sites that draw large crowds of people for shopping, business, entertainment, or lodging.

Communications Sector

The Communications Sector is an integral component of the U.S. economy, underlying the operations of all businesses, public safety organizations, and government. The Department of Homeland Security is the Sector-Specific Agency for the Communications Sector.

Critical Manufacturing Sector

The Department of Homeland Security is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Critical Manufacturing Sector.

Dams Sector

The Department of Homeland Security is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Dams Sector. The Dams Sector comprises dam projects, navigation locks, levees, hurricane barriers, mine tailings impoundments, and other similar water retention and/or control facilities.

Defense Industrial Base Sector

The U.S. Department of Defense is the Sector-Specific Agency for the Defense Industrial Base Sector. The Defense Industrial Base Sector enables research, development, design, production, delivery, and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems, and components or parts to meet U.S. military requirements.

Emergency Services Sector

The Department of Homeland Security is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Emergency Services Sector. The sector provides a wide range of prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery services during both day-to-day operations and incident response.

Energy Sector

The U.S. energy infrastructure fuels the economy of the 21st century. The Department of Energy is the Sector-Specific Agency for the Energy Sector.

Financial Services Sector

The Department of the Treasury is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Financial Services Sector.

Food and Agriculture Sector

The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services are designated as the co-Sector-Specific Agencies for the Food and Agriculture Sector.

Government Facilities Sector

The Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration are designated as the Co-Sector-Specific Agencies for the Government Facilities Sector.

Healthcare and Public Health Sector

The Department of Health and Human Services is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Healthcare and Public Health Sector.

Information Technology Sector

The Department of Homeland Security is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Information Technology Sector.

Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector

The Department of Homeland Security is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector.

Transportation Systems Sector

The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation are designated as the Co-Sector-Specific Agencies for the Transportation Systems Sector.

Water and Wastewater Systems Sector

The Environmental Protection Agency is designated as the Sector-Specific Agency for the Water and Wastewater Systems Sector.

Yes. The IRS provided guidelines on 3/20/2020. See the follow-up memo from the IRS

The experts at HRinDemand spoke with a lobor attorney about the Act.  She suggests waiting to implement any policies on paid leave. The Department of Labor is currently working on creating regulations to follow for compliance with the Act. Without that regulatory guidance, any policy updates now could be subject to change because we don’t know the full extent of the obligations under the Act. Businesses have until the beginning of April to comply with the Act. I don’t recommend a hasty approach and caution against having to send out multiple versions of a policy so as to avoid eroding trust between management and the team. There is so much to worry about right now and employees are looking to management to be sure of what to do – this is a heavy responsibility, I know. Please know I’m here if you or your management team need any HR support. For now, here is an example of communication to your employees that can be shared today as recommended by the labor attorney:

We are aware that the federal government has implemented a law regarding paid leave time in certain circumstances where time off is needed related to COVID-19. The Family First Coronavirus Response Act was signed by President Trump and enacted into law on 3/19/20. In order to ascertain what benefits might be available to our team, we are waiting for further guidance from the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL will be providing regulations for employers to follow for compliance with the Act. As soon as we know exactly what the benefits and obligations are under the Act, we will provide more information.

See: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

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