18 Mar What About Paying My Employees?
What do I need to know about HR 6201?
HR 6201, signed into law by President Trump on March 18, established requirements for emergency paid sick leave to employees. The law requires small businesses to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to an employee who:
- Has a current diagnosis of COVID–19, or is under quarantine at the instruction of a health care provider, employer, or a local, state, or federal official.
- Is engaged in caregiving for an individual who has a current diagnosis of COVID–19 or is under quarantine.
- Is engaged in caregiving, because of the COVID–19-related closing of a school or other care facility or care program, for a child or other individual unable to provide self-care.
- This does not apply to businesses with over 500 people, and small businesses with under 50 employees may avoid the requirements if they “would jeopardize the viability of the business as an ongoing concern.” However, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has not yet clarified how these exemptions will be made.
- These provisions are set to expire at the end of calendar year 2020.
Click here to read more details about HR 6201.
Listen to our three-part podcast focusing on employment law and COVID-19.
Will my unemployment insurance rates increase if my employees have to receive unemployment benefits?
In a declaration on March 19, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that the Department of Workforce Development, “shall not assess certain experience rate penalties to employers as a result of employees receiving unemployment benefits related to COVID-19.” In essence, your practice’s unemployment insurance rates will not escalate due to any claims made as a result of COVID-19 mandated or voluntary closures.
If I decide to close my office, do I have to pay my employees?
For exempt (salaried) and non-exempt full-time employees, you will have to pay them if they are willing and able to come to work but are unable to do so because of the closed office. You may direct these staff members to take vacation or debit their time off account during a disaster, whether for a full or partial day’s absence, provided the employees receive in payment an amount equal to their guaranteed salary.
You do not have to pay hourly employees who do not have paid time off. If they don’t work, they don’t get paid. However, you are legally allowed to pay them as a gesture of goodwill if you are able to do so.
If an employee contracts the coronavirus, does workers’ compensation provide coverage?
An employee who contracts the coronavirus while at work might have coverage under workers’ compensation, but the burden of proof would be on the employee to prove that the illness was contracted through the course of employment and not elsewhere. Your insurance carrier will evaluate each claim on its own individual set of circumstances.
Can employers revise paid sick time policies to allow for “quarantine” situations?
Many employers are offering relaxed and/or additional paid leave benefits in response to the current situation. Most common is allowing the use of paid sick time to cover time off work due to restrictions against coming onsite for coronavirus prevention purposes. Paid sick time may also be allowed for other coronavirus-related reasons for absence, such as the need to care for children whose schools are closed.
Some employers are simply paying for “quarantine time” separately from any existing paid time off policies, but that is not always feasible, especially given the uncertainty about the potential total cost at a time when revenues may be down. Some employers are considering adopting “leave-sharing” programs to allow employees to donate a portion of their paid time off to coworkers who are off work for extended periods due to the coronavirus. Because leave-sharing programs can be complex to administer, and if not properly designed, donor employees may be subject to payroll taxes on donated leave, we advise consulting benefits counsel before adopting such a program.
Do employer-instituted quarantines or temporary shutdowns or mass layoffs entitle workers to unemployment benefits?
Yes, workers are generally entitled to unemployment insurance if they are furloughed when a business temporarily shuts down and all other unemployment requirements are met.
The State of Indiana is hosting a webinar on unemployment benefits. Click here to learn more.