24 Nov COVID-19 Employee Matters
Who is eligible for COVID pay under the CARES Act/FFCRA?
Please note: Eligibility for COVID pay is not determined by the type of employment—hourly v. salary—but rather, job responsibilities and whether or not the employee is considered to be directly providing healthcare services.
The CARES and Families First Coronavirus Response Acts are ever-changing and complex. As of this writing, the FFCRA provides for a one-time 80 hour leave for nonexempt employees who have contracted (or are caring for someone who has contracted) COVID-19. The dental office team can be broken into two main categories:
Exempt: Anyone who “provides diagnostic services, preventive services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care and, if not provided, would adversely impact patient care.” (US Department of Labor.) Examples of employees who are exempt from the 80 hour leave requirement include: dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants.
Nonexempt: Other non-healthcare members of the staff. Examples of employees who are entitled to the 80 hours leave are office managers and front office staff.
While you are not required, you may still choose to pay your exempt employees for the 80 hours of COVID-19 time. If you choose to do so, you are encouraged to adopt a standard office policy rather than evaluate who you will pay on a case-by-case basis. If you choose not to pay exempt employees, they are entitled to submit an unemployment claim through the state, which will affect your provider experience account.
For more information on the definition of a healthcare provider, visit the Society for Human Resource Management website.
What are the qualifying reasons eligible employees can receive COVID pay?
Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work due to a need for leave because the employee meets one of the following criteria:
- Is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
- Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
- Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis
In addition, where the eligible employee is caring for a COVID positive spouse or child, the CDC definition of a “close contact” is met and the employee would likely be cautioned to quarantine as well, and therefore has one of the qualifying reasons for COVID pay. Click here to view the U.S. Department of Labor guidance.
Although it is not required, should I give my clinical staff COVID pay? How should I make that decision?
The decision on whether to pay clinical staff who are out for qualifying reasons is a personal one. When making that decision, consider consulting with your financial professional, office manager, or other managerial staff. To best protect yourself from potential discrimination suits or other legal issues, the decision should be both universal and in writing. The choice to pay some clinical staff and not others opens up a variety of problems, and by posting or distributing a written policy in writing, you can ensure that your clinical staff all feel they are being treated equally.
What if we are a small office with less than ten employees? Do we still have to distribute COVID pay to eligible employees?
There is no small business exception for COVID pay for the three qualifying reasons listed in the question “What are the qualifying reasons eligible employees can receive COVID pay?” above. However, “Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”
For more information, see the U.S. Department of Labor’s COVID pay questions page.