APS and covid-19
As we adjust to new precautions and possible situations, we want to keep you informed as well as provide resources to help your business through this challenging and uncertain time.
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FFCRA & CARES Act FAQs
Can I use an hourly income type to pay my salary employees for COVID-19 leave?
It depends on your payroll provider. The APS system supports this as long as it is set up to pay salary employees and employers have entered an hourly rate on the employee's Rates & Deductions tab. Payroll admins will still want to override the employee salary to $0 during the payroll batch and enter the number of applicable hours in the hourly income column.
Do part-time employees get paid for 80 hours, which may cover more than 2 weeks?
Part-time employees are eligible for the number of hours they average in two weeks.
Is the FFCRA retroactive?
The FFCRA went into effect April 1, 2020.
How do we activate the new APS COVID-19 income types in our instance?
APS now provides four different COVID-19 income types employers may use to track and manage FFCRA tax credits:
- COVID19 - None: Used for tracking leave related to COVID-19 that does not fall into the parameters of an income eligible for credit.
- COVID19 - Quarantine: Used if an employee is unable to work because of quarantine or self-quarantine (NOT shelter-in-place) or has COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis
- COVID19 - Care for Others: Used if an employee is unable to work because of caring for someone with COVID-19; or is caring for a child because the child's school or child care facility is closed; or the child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus.
- COVID19 - Child Care: Used for the tracking emergency FMLA expansion leave if an employee is unable to work because of caring for a child because the child's school or child care facility is closed, or the child care provider is unavaialble due to the Coronavirus.
APS customers will need submit a request to their Account Team to add these income types.
When are FFCRA income types in APS effective?
The FFCRA went into effect April 1, 2020 and covers qualified leave through December 31, 2020.
How can I use APS text notifications during this time?
APS customers can use the Employee Notification Center to text employees with any information they would like to send.
If we don't have any employees using COVID-19 incomes in APS, do we need to still approve them in our instance?
It is best practice to approve all income items, so they are ready to use; however, APS customers are only required to approve them if they need to process them through payroll.
For salaried employees who worked part of the week (prior to April 1st) and then were off part of the week, do we need to adjust downward the base salary by the amount of the COVID-19 salary or will it automatically calculate?
Depending on your payroll provider, you may need to make adjustments to the employee's salary if they do not need to be paid their full salary. APS will not automatically reduce the salary by the amount entered for a COVID-19 income.
What is the difference between the COVID19 – Care for Others and COVID19 – Child Care income types in APS?
The COVID19 – Care for Others income is set to cap the tax credit at $2000 annually whereas the COVID19 – Child Care income is set to cap it at $10,000 annually. Care for Others should be used for the FFCRA Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Child Care should be used for the FMLA emergency expansion.
Are there current programs for organizations over 500 employees?
The Employee Retention Credit is available to many businesses, regardless of size. Check out the IRS website for more information.
I want my employees to be able to request time off for COVID-19 leave. How do I set that up?
This depends on your payroll provider. APS customers can submit this request to their dedicated Account Team. There are two options:
- Adjust the incomes to be available for employees to request, or
- Set up accrual plans for each income (this option is helpful because you can name the accrual plans in a more employee-friendly way).
Is the FFCRA tax credit applied every payroll, or do I need to file for it quarterly with the IRS?
The tax credit is applied to each payroll. APS customers will see the FFCRA Tax Credit on the Cash Requirement statement after each payroll is finalized. You will not need to file anything additional with the IRS.
Will both the tax credit and the amount paid to the employee be capped?
In the APS system, only the tax credit will be capped at the applicable amounts when you use the COVID-19 incomes.
Once an employee reaches their 80 hours, will APS not let us use the income item for that specific employee?
No – you may still use the income item for as long as you need. APS will only cap the tax credit at the applicable aggregate amounts.
Does the 500 employees include multi-FEIN ownership?
See question #2 here. The DOL maintains that a corporation is typically considered to be a single employer and employees are all counted toward the 500-employee threshold.
Is the sick leave paid out to the employee by the employer or is that going to be a credit covered by the government?
Employees' sick leave is paid for by their employer, and the employer will receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to the applicable limits.
Does any of this information change for restaurants or is it the same?
Restaurants are covered employers if they fall under the 500-employee threshold, just like any other privately-held business. Some of the SBA loan options may differentiate when a restaurant has more than 500 employees total, but not more than 500 employees at any one location.
How do I know if my business qualifies for relief under the PPP?
If an employee qualifies for FFCRA leave and regular wage exceeds the daily limit, can the employer pay regular wages in addition to FFCRA wages?
Absolutely. APS provides an income type in our system to capture the difference - COVID19 - NONE. What is entered with this income will not be eligible for a tax credit.
What income code should be used in APS for an employee using emergency FMLA (EMFLA) and wants to use the emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) for the first two weeks (80 Hours)?
APS customers should use COVID19 – Quarantine or COVID19 – Care for Others (depending on the reason) for the EPSL and then use COVID19 – Child Care for the EFMLA.
Which APS COVID income would be used for a person caring for a child whose school is closed?
APS customers should use COVID19 – Care for Others for the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and then use COVID19 – Child Care for the FMLA expansion, if applicable.
If an employee was ordered to self-quarantine prior to April 1, do they qualify for paid sick leave?
Yes, but only for leave taken beginning April 1, 2020. Prior to that, other leave options may be used (PTO, Sick, etc.)
What is the impact for self-employed individuals?
The IRS has a section just for Self-Employed Individuals. See questions 60-66 here.
Are employees required to provide documentation in support of leave taken under the FFCRA?
If you intend to claim a tax credit under the FFCRA for your payment of the sick leave or expanded family and medical leave wages, you should retain appropriate documentation in your records.
A written request for leave from the employee should include the following (and you can’t require that it include more):
- The employee’s name;
- The date or dates for which leave is requested;
- A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave and written support for such reason; and
- A statement that the employee is unable to work, including by means of telework, for such reason.
In the case of a leave request based on a quarantine order or self-quarantine advice, the statement from the employee should include the name of the governmental entity ordering quarantine or the name of the health care professional advising self-quarantine, and, if the person subject to quarantine or advised to self-quarantine is not the employee, that person’s name and relation to the employee.
For a leave request based on a school closing or child care provider unavailability, the statement from the employee should include the name and age of the child (or children) to be cared for, the name of the school that has closed or place of care that is unavailable, and a representation that no other person will be providing care for the child during the period for which the employee is receiving family medical leave and, with respect to the employee’s inability to work or telework because of a need to provide care for a child older than 14 during daylight hours, a statement that special circumstances exist requiring the employee to provide care.
It's worth noting that the FFCRA makes emergency FMLA available to an employee who is "unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency." In the case of a child over the age of 14, to claim the tax credit, the IRS is asking that employers collect a statement from the employee noting that a special circumstance exists requiring them to provide care. For questions about tax credit documentation, we recommend consulting with a qualified tax professional.
Does the FFCRA apply to me if I have more than 500 employees? How do I count them?
No, if you employ more than 500 employees, the FFCRA does not apply to your organization. It applies only to organizations that employ fewer than 500 full-time and part-time employees within the United States.
When counting your employees, be sure to include employees on leave, temporary employees who are jointly employed by you and another employer, and day laborers supplied by a temporary agency. You do not need to include workers who are properly classified as independent contractors.
You can read more about counting employees for purposes of the FFCRA on the DOL's Q&A page.
What do I, as an employer, need to do about the Coronavirus?
As an HR professional, epidemiology and the prevention of pandemics are not your specialties. Thankfully, though, the CDC is on the job. Below are some links to useful information. The basic takeaways are actually quite simple, and go something like this:
- Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. For at least 20 seconds.
- Keep your hands off your face.
- If you feel sick, stay home.
- If your employees feel sick, encourage them to stay home.
- If your employees are visibly sick, send them home. This may cost you both money and productivity, but if they infect the rest of your workforce, that will ultimately be much more costly and dangerous to public health. Check state law for any “reporting time pay” requirements.
- If you cough or sneeze, do it into a tissue if possible, and then throw it away. Your elbow/upper arm is next best. If you accidentally cough or sneeze into your hands, wash them immediately and disinfect anything you touched on your way to do so (e.g., doorknobs and sink handles).
- Disinfect frequently touched objects often (e.g., doorknobs, sink handles, fridge and microwave doors, water cooler buttons, your phone).
Encourage employees to follow these guidelines by distributing them or posting them around the workplace. And now is also a great time to start thinking -- if you haven't before -- about what hardware and software employees may need to enable them to work from home.
I’ve heard that OSHA released new COVID-19 workplace guidance. Are there any new requirements?
Technically, no. OSHA’s new guidance is advisory in nature and creates no new legal obligations. However, one of President Biden’s first acts after being sworn in was to sign an Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety that directs OSHA to increase enforcement of existing agency standards and investigate whether a new standard for COVID-19 mitigation is needed. Given that, employers may want to consider the new guidelines a strong recommendation.
In a nutshell, OSHA recommends that employers and employees implement a COVID-19 prevention program that includes the following elements:
- Masks and social distancing
- A hazard assessment
- Measures to limit the spread of the virus
- Ways to identify (and send home) sick employees and policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers for staying home when sick
- Communication of coronavirus policies and procedures in both English and the primary language of non-English speaking workers
- Protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns
If you’re interested, you can learn more about the program here.
An employee of ours had a brief coughing fit today, but she says she just had something caught in her throat. As far as we’ve seen, she hasn’t experienced any symptoms associated with COVID-19 other than this one time. Do we need to send her home just in case?
No. If you’ve confirmed that she isn’t experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, I would recommend treating this instance of coughing as a one-off event and not indicative of the virus. You can remind her and other employees to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms, but one instance of coughing could be due to any number of factors, and in this case, the employee provided an alternate explanation.
That said, if an employee were to have persistent coughing, then it would be advisable to send them home. If that employee were to claim their symptoms are from another cause (e.g., allergies, asthma, the common cold), the most risk-averse response would be to send them home with pay until the symptoms resolve or they can provide evidence of the other source of the symptoms.
We also recommend that employees wear masks at work, even if not required by your state or locality. The potential risk that any employee poses to others goes down significantly if they are wearing a mask while coughing (or talking, laughing, sneezing, or simply breathing).
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, should we cancel our annual holiday party?
We would certainly recommend not having an in-person event this year, which could put your company, employees, customers, and community at risk. If your event spreads the virus, your employees could become sick, much of your workforce may need to quarantine, and your event could make the news.
We understand, however, that canceling this event could be disappointing to you and your employees. One way to spread joy, but not the virus, would be to host a virtual party. You could provide gift cards to local eateries or food delivery services, organize a home decorating or ugly sweater contest, and facilitate interactive games.
You could also offer employees the option of having the cost of the gift card they would otherwise receive donated to a charity (while still having the virtual shindig). Or, if a virtual party isn’t feasible or employees aren’t in the mood, you could donate the entire cost of the celebration to a worthwhile organization. If you take either charitable approach, we recommend allowing employees to help you choose the charities, so they feel like they’ve participated in the giving.
What do we do if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19?
First, notify other employees of potential exposure, if any, in the workplace. You should tell them that someone was diagnosed with the illness, but you should not identify which employee is sick, even if employees ask so they can gauge their own risk. Medical information, such as a diagnosis, must be kept confidential. It’s okay if they figure it out on their own, but make sure you’re not the one to reveal the information.
Exposed employees probably don’t need to quarantine unless they had close contact for a prolonged period of time (this isn’t precisely defined, but 15 minutes at less than 6 feet apart would qualify, even with masks). The CDC updates these guidelines as needed, so you can check this page for the latest information.
Next, you should follow CDC and local health department guidance on cleaning and quarantining. Areas of the worksite where the infected person worked or visited should be closed for 24 hours, or as long as possible, then thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Here’s a page with detailed CDC guidance.
The sick employee should talk to their healthcare provider to determine when to return. For those who have a presumptive case of COVID-19 (meaning they didn’t get a test), their provider will probably let them return when:
- At least 72 hours have passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms and,
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
Are we required to restore employees returning to work after a furlough to their original positions?
Unless an employee was out on job-protected leave, such as FMLA or EFMLA, you are not required to return them to their original position or to an equivalent one (or bring them back at all). Given the impact of COVID-19 on business operations across the country, it’s not surprising that organizations may need to restructure their teams to stay afloat or remain competitive. That said, if employees who were furloughed or laid off are asked to come back to a job that feels to them like a demotion, they may be less inclined to accept the offer, or they may be less engaged in the new role than they were in their previous job.
If you need to restructure their position, it will be helpful to explain why that was necessary. People are generally much more accepting of change if they understand it, and less likely to claim discrimination if you’ve given them your business-related reason for the decision.
We’re currently being inundated with unsolicited resumes. Do we need to keep all of them?
You can keep or discard unsolicited resumes, but your practice should be consistent. Keeping some while discarding others could open you up to discrimination claims if your hiring decisions were ever challenged.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of unsolicited resumes you’re receiving, you can try to discourage job seekers from sending them by posting on job advertisements and on your careers page that you don’t accept unsolicited resumes. When you do receive them, don’t review them—simply delete the file or email or shred the document.
If you opt to keep unsolicited resumes, we recommend you maintain them for the time you would keep solicited resumes, or at least one year (two if you’re a federal contractor).
Can we deny an employee’s use of accrued vacation time?
Yes, the decision to approve or deny the use of accrued vacation time is up to you, assuming you do so in a consistent and non-discriminatory manner. It would be acceptable, for example, to deny a vacation request because approving it would leave you without adequate coverage or because the employee asked with less notice than is required by your time off policy.
You should, however, ensure that certain employees are not denied vacation disproportionately. For instance, if an employer’s administrative staff (who are all women), or their software engineers (who are all men), are consistently denied vacation because arranging coverage is difficult and deadlines are abundant, this could lead to claims of discrimination.
If you have “use it or lose it” vacation policy, you may want to change it (permanently or for 2020) to a system where hours rollover from one benefit year to another (up to a reasonable cap) so that employees don’t feel like they need to use up their vacation by a certain date or risk losing the benefit. If you already rollover hours, you might consider raising the rollover cap for this year in response to COVID-19. In any case, be sure to notify employees of any changes to your policy.
Some of our employees have said they don’t feel safe returning to work. Can we just permanently replace them?
We recommend caution when deciding to replace an employee who refuses to work because of concerns about COVID-19. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Recalled employees may have a right to job-protected leave under a city ordinance, state law, or the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
- Employees who are in a high-risk category — either because they are immunocompromised or have an underlying condition that makes them more susceptible to the disease — may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or state law if their situation doesn’t qualify them for leave under the FFCRA (or if they have run out of that leave). It would be a reasonable accommodation under the circumstances to allow the employee to work from home or take unpaid leave if working from home is not possible.
- Employees who live with someone who is high risk are not entitled to a reasonable accommodation under federal law, but we strongly recommend allowing them to work from home if possible or take unpaid leave. Otherwise, they may decide to quit and collect unemployment insurance. If you want to keep them as an employee, being compassionate and flexible is your best bet.
- Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules, an employee’s refusal to perform a task will be protected if all of the following conditions are met: Where possible, the employee asked the employer to eliminate the danger, and the employer failed to do so; the employee refused to work in “good faith,” which means that the employee must genuinely believe that an imminent danger exists; a reasonable person would agree that there is a real danger of death or serious injury; and there isn’t enough time, because of the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.
Check state and local law to see if additional protections may apply.
Instead of replacing employees who express fear at this time, we recommend that you consider methods to encourage employees to come to work and to help put their minds at ease. Consider emphasizing all of the safety methods you have put in place (such as scheduled handwashing, frequent disinfection of surfaces, social distancing rules, reduced customer capacity, staggered shifts, or more extreme measures if warranted by your industry). We recommend relying on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health department guidance for establishing safe working conditions at this time. You might also consider offering premium pay (a.k.a. hazard pay) or additional paid time off for use in the future to employees who must come to work.
We are reopening after business closure due to COVID-19. Can we bring some employees back, but not others?
Yes. If you are recalling some positions, but not others, you should document the business reasons why only those positions were recalled. If you are recalling some employees in a certain position, but not everyone in that position, you should document the objective, job-related criteria you used to decide which employees to bring back. Seniority or previous job performance, for example, would be acceptable criteria and relatively easy to defend if you are ever challenged.
Can we screen employees returning to work for COVID-19?
Yes. Generally, inquiries about an employee’s health or a medical exam (like a temperature check) would not be allowed, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that screening employees for symptoms of COVID-19 is allowed since it is a direct threat to others in the workplace. Because of that, you may inquire about symptoms related to the virus, require self-reporting by employees, and take employees’ temperatures.
Known symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and sudden loss of taste or smell. As the medical community learns more about COVID-19, additional symptoms could be added to this list. Employers can check this page for currently recognized symptoms.
If you decide to do screenings, make sure you screen all employees; otherwise you may find yourself in the middle of a discrimination claim. And remember that all information about employees’ health—including a lack of symptoms or temperature—must be kept confidential.
Can we reduce pay because of an economic slowdown due to COVID-19?
You can reduce an employee's rate of pay based on business or economic slowdown, provided that this is not done retroactively. For instance, if you give employees notice that their pay will change on the 10th, and your payroll period runs from the 1st through the 15th, make sure that their next check still reflects the higher rate of pay for the first 9 days of the payroll period.
Non-Exempt Employees (Those Entitled to Overtime)
A non-exempt employee's new rate of pay must still meet the applicable federal, state, or local minimum wage. Employees must be given notice of the change at the time of the change, or before. This gives them the ability to stop working if they don’t agree with the new rate of pay and can help prevent a wage claim.
Exempt Employees (Those Not Entitled to Overtime)
An exempt employee's new salary must still be at or above the federal or state minimum for exempt employees. The federal minimum salary is $684 per week. Several states have weekly minimums that are higher than that (California and New York, for instance, are in the $1,000 per week range). The minimum may not be prorated based on hours worked.
Exempt Employee Reclassification
If an exempt employee has so little work to do that it does not make sense to pay them the federal or state minimum (or you simply cannot afford to), they can be reclassified as non-exempt and be paid by the hour instead. This must not be done on a very short-term basis. Although there are no hard and fast rules about how long you can reclassify someone, we would recommend not changing their classification unless you expect the slowdown to last for more than three weeks. Changing them back and forth frequently could cause you to lose their exemption retroactively and potentially owe years of overtime.
Employees with Contracts or CBAs
If employees have employment contracts or are subject to collective bargaining agreements, you should consult with an attorney before making any changes to pay.
Given COVID-19, if an employee is out of the office due to sickness, can we ask them about their symptoms?
Yes, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. In most circumstances, employers shouldn’t ask about an employee’s symptoms, as that could be construed as a disability-related inquiry. Under the circumstances, however—and in line with an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace—we recommend asking specifically about the symptoms of COVID-19 and making it clear that this is the extent of the information you’re looking for.
Here’s a suggested communication: “Thank you for staying home while sick. In the interest of keeping all employees as safe as possible, we’d like to know if you are having any of the symptoms of COVID-19. Are you experiencing a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath?”
Remember that medical information must be kept confidential as required by the ADA. If the employee does reveal that they have symptoms of COVID-19 or has a confirmed case, you should see the CDC’s Interim Guidance to determine the next steps. Tables 1 and 2 will help you assess risk and determine what steps, if any, should be taken.
Do we still have to provide EPSL or EFMLA if we shut down, or if we furlough or lay off employees?
Generally, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) any eligible employee is entitled to emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) leave effective April 1, 2020.
We urge employers to consult the recent guidance on receiving immediate dollar-for-dollar reimbursement for EPSL and EFMLA as well as the plans for small business waivers for leave related to school closures when it would jeopardize the viability of the business. Read our article about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act for more information.
If I am a nonprofit or a public employer, do FFCRA tax credits and reimbursement apply to me?
Most public employers (e.g., cities, municipalities, public school districts) will not be eligible for the tax credits or reimbursements provided in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Private nonprofit entities, however, are eligible.
Can I send an employee home if they are sick or pregnant, regardless of whether it’s COVID-19-related, just to be safe?
You have the right to send people home for sickness if it appears that they have something contagious; in this case, you are protecting other employees in the workplace. This includes sending employees home who have the common cold.
You should not send employees home because you believe they are higher risk — this includes pregnant employees. We would encourage you to make working from home or unpaid leaves available for employees who want that option, but not to force that on anyone who doesn’t pose a risk to others.
What should we do if a potentially exposed employee came into the office? Do we inform affected employees and/or send everyone home?
You should refer to the CDC’s Risk Assessment tool and/or contact your local health authority to help you determine what steps, if any, would be warranted to protect other employees. Remember that medical information (even of an employee’s family member) must be kept confidential under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
How do we handle taking employee’s temperatures?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance that employers may take employees’ temperatures during the COVID-19 pandemic because COVID-19 is spreading nationwide. Note that many people may have COVID-19 without a fever, so other safety precautions should not be scaled back just because employees “checked out” upon arrival to work. The CDC summarizes symptoms here.
The main CDC COVID-19 page has general community mitigation strategies as well as certain regional specific strategies. We cannot provide guidance on how to implement temperature checking procedures, but significant precautions should be taken so that you do not actually increase risk by reusing a tool that comes into contact with hands and/or mouths of multiple employees.
Do we have to pay an employee we sent home due to COVID-19?
Employees must be paid for any work they do at home. If you send someone home and they cannot work remotely, then whether you pay them, and how much, will depend on their classification.
Nonexempt Employees Only Need to Be Paid for Actual Hours Worked
For nonexempt employees, in situations where leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) does not apply, the company may:
- Pay the employee for the time, even though they did not work;
- Require they take the day off unpaid;
- Require they use any available vacation time or PTO; or
- Allow employees to choose between taking an unpaid day or using vacation or PTO
All four options are compliant with state and federal law. Option 4 is generally recommended — allowing employees the option of using vacation time or PTO, but not requiring it.
Exempt Employees Must Be Paid Their Regular Salary Unless They Do No Work for an Entire Week
This holds true whether they are sent home for full or partial days. You may, however, require exempt employees to use accrued vacation or PTO if you have a policy that indicates you will do so, or if this has been your practice in the past. If your office has closed or sent people home for emergencies in the past and you have not required exempt employees to use vacation or PTO, and you want to require that this time around, you should indicate — ahead of the closure, if possible — that you are changing your policy or practice on this issue. When it comes to accrued vacation or PTO, it is safest to give employees advance notice if there are situations where you will use their accrued hours whether they like it or not.
For exempt employees who do not have sufficient vacation or PTO to cover the closure, you are still required to provide them with their full regular salary. The only scenario where you will not be required to pay an exempt employee their full salary is if the office is closed for an entire workweek (or the employee is unable to come in for an entire workweek) and they do no work at all from home.
Can we require employees to get medical notes for sick or medical leaves related to COVID-19?
You can, but the CDC asks that you not require them for an employee to return to work, as health care practitioners are already overwhelmed.
Our business is suffering due to COVID-19. We can’t afford to pay people and might have to close. What do we do?
This is understandably a very difficult situation for employers and their employees.
There are three basic options when it comes to keeping employees or letting them go: furlough (temporary reduction in hours of work or weeks of work); temporary layoffs (layoff with the intention of rehire, generally within six months); or permanent layoffs (layoff with no anticipated rehire date). In all situations, it’s best to be very clear in written communications about your decision and work with an attorney.
Employees who are furloughed can still receive unemployment insurance benefits, so employers shouldn’t feel like they have to terminate everyone just so they can receive unemployment insurance.
Do we still offer the same benefits during a furlough due to COVID-19 as we did before? What about a layoff or closure?
Check with your benefits provider before you take action. Eligibility for benefits during a furlough or layoff will depend on the specifics of your plan. For health insurance, if an employee would lose their eligibility during a furlough (or layoff), then federal COBRA or state mini-COBRA would apply.
Do we still have to provide emergency paid sick leave or expanded FMLA if we lay off or furlough employees?
No. Employers who are closed — either due to lack of business or a state or local order — do not have to provide these leaves. Employees who are furloughed (temporarily not working but still on the payroll) are also not entitled to these benefits. In either of these cases, employees would be eligible for unemployment insurance instead.
However, employers should ensure that they are not making furlough or layoff decisions based on an employee’s request or potential need for leave, as this would likely be considered interference or retaliation (and grounds for a lawsuit).
I’m concerned about the cost of unemployment as well as how to advise employees about it. Any help?
Remember that you don’t pay unemployment insurance (UI) claims directly. They are paid by the state, and the state gets funds for that from unemployment insurance taxes that employers pay into regularly. Some employers are concerned that their UI tax rate will increase due to current layoffs, but it appears that many states will essentially be forgiving COVID-19-related terminations with respect to future increases in UI tax rates.
Most employees who experience reduced hours, furloughs, or layoffs will be eligible for at least some unemployment insurance. Exactly how much will depend on a number of factors. Employees should be encouraged to file as soon as possible and to research rules, benefits, and options themselves to ensure they get the best benefit possible. We recommend that both employers and employees visit their state’s unemployment insurance department website and track local and state news, as departments across the country are updating their rules to facilitate displaced workers during this time.
How do we make sure we pay employees appropriately when they work from home?
You’ll want to pay an employee that is working from home just like you would pay someone who is working in the office. Have them log their time and, if needed, report it to someone who can enter it into your payroll system (if this is something they can’t do themselves online). Nonexempt employees should take all the same breaks at home that they are required to take in the workplace. With respect to ensuring that people are actually doing work at home, you may want to set up regular check-ins to see that things are getting done. You can also require that employees remain available online via a messaging app and are available by telephone or for video conferences during working hours.
Payroll and HR Consultations
During this difficult time, we are offering FREE payroll and HR consultations to help businesses navigate through COVID19. Contact us today to get the payroll and HR help you need.
APS Business Continuity Plan
APS COVID-19 Update (Published 3/19/2020)
We have completed the process of executing the remote worker aspect of our business continuity plan. As of today approximately 80% of the APS staff are either working remotely or enabled to work remotely.
For support needs, continue to submit requests using the Help Center as phone support is still reserved for critical needs. As this situation evolves we will expand phone support as needed.
Check Printing and Shipping
As a reminder, if APS prints and ships checks to you, we strongly recommend that you prepare to be able to print checks locally at your office. To print checks locally, you will need compatible 8.5 x 11 check stock which can be purchased at most office supply stores.
Various states have begun releasing their protocol and procedures for employees that are in need to claim partial or temporary unemployment benefits in relation to mass layoffs or shutdowns due to COVID-19. Please be sure to check out the state’s unemployment website in order to be able to provide the correct and most current information to the employees that are being affected.
We wish you good health and thank you for your trust in APS.
President & CEO
A Note About COVID-19 (Published 3/13/2020)
Our primary objectives are to provide a safe environment for our employees and to ensure that the critical business needs of our customers and partners are met. We do not anticipate significant interruptions to business operations at APS or with our critical infrastructure partners in banking and technology. However, here are some things to consider:
Limited staff due to school closings or infection
In the event of school closings or infection, our designated remote staff will manage customer support needs.
During this time, customer support will be limited to payroll and attendance requests that are submitted to APS through the Help Center. Phone support will be reserved for critical business issues.
Disruption to FedEx delivery services (ignore this if you are paperless)
In the event that there is a disruption to the delivery service from FedEx in local markets or at the Memphis (TN) hub, it is very likely that deliveries will be delayed or cease.
To minimize the impact of a disruption from FedEx, we recommend the use of employee direct deposit and pay cards. If direct deposit is not an option for an employee, we recommend using remote check printing. Remote check printing allows you to print checks for a payroll run directly from APS to your local printer. If you are interested in remote check printing, please reach out to your Account Team for assistance.
What you should do to prepare
Just as a reminder, APS is a cloud-based system that you can access from any computer with an internet connection. As a security protocol, you will be required to complete two-factor authentication in order to log in from a new computer and browser combination.
Also, review your user profile and make sure that your mobile phone number is correct so that we can reach you if necessary.
If you are the only payroll admin user in APS, it is strongly encouraged to identify a backup person that has the authority to access your company data in APS. If there are any primary contact information changes that we need to be aware of to discuss confidential information, please let your Account Team know as soon as possible.
Employee self-service and clocking
For employee access to eSELFSERVE.COM, employees can download the mobile app from one of the app stores to access their information.
If you have IP restrictions for clocking enabled, you will have to remove the restrictions for employees to clock in remotely, or enable mobile clocking using the app. This can be done in the Admin console under eSELFSERVE.COM Settings.
Communicating with employees
It is important to minimize the uncertainty for employees regarding the ability for them to get paid and to communicate with them effectively as risks materialize.
As a convenience to our customers, we have enabled Notifications for all customers and are waiving all text messaging usage fees through April 2020. If you want to use the text feature in Notifications, you will have to enable text messaging in the Admin console under the Notification Preferences link. You can then access the Notifications page from the Employee drop-down menu in the top navigation bar.
Fraud and phishing schemes
During times of uncertainty, it is important to be on high alert that bad actors will try to take advantage of you and your employees. As a reminder, do not click on any links in emails that you receive that are unsolicited, reference “urgent coronavirus action required”, or try to get you to make a monetary transaction.
We wish you good health and thank you for your trust in APS.
President & CEO