Pressing FAQs on COVID HR Updates
As you track the latest HR updates for COVID-19, you can learn key strategies and updates as you discover where other companies are experiencing challenges in implementing new laws and policies. Below are some common questions about the HR implications surrounding FFCRA leave, COVID-19 safety precautions, PPP loans and forgiveness, and remote school accommodations. See how MP’s HR services team offers guidance for these questions, as well as some of the best HR strategies we recommend to round out your human resource strategy.
HR updates regarding FFCRA leaves
Q: If a salaried employee is gone for half of the week and qualified for an FFCRA leave, does the employer need to pay them their regular rate for the whole week if they worked only part of the week?
A: In this case, you should take your guidance from the state you operate in. Some states do allow for pro-rated salaries when people miss time for work. However, under the FFCRA, there are some restrictions. In most cases, you would want to pay the full salary. This is especially true if you can be reimbursed by the federal government for that time, which is a provision under the FFCRA.
Q: Under the FFCRA, if an employee is out to care for a family member with COVID that is not a child, are they only eligible for 80 hours? Furthermore, do those hours need to be consecutive, or can they be intermittent?
A: Yes, that employee would be eligible for just 80 hours, or the equivalent of two weeks of their schedule. An additional 10 weeks of time under FFCRA leave is only applicable in cases where a child’s (children’s’) daycare center or school is closed and the employee in question is the only available caregiver for him/her/them. The employee would be restricted to the 80 hours under FFCRA. Note that if you use a payroll system like MP’s, the software won’t allow you to pay for more FFCRA leave than the employee is eligible for. In terms of intermittent leave, that needs to be mutually agreed upon between the employer and employee. Employers do have some autonomy and some sway in allowing or denying intermittent leave when it comes caring for someone with COVID, due to the increased risk of exposure to other employees by allowing someone who has experienced close contact back in the workplace.
As an employer, your best strategy is to work with your employee to find some other accommodation if the business can’t offer an intermittent leave. It should be treated similarly to an ADA accommodation request. You should create an interactive process where the employee and employer make their cases together.
Q: If an employee tested positive for COVID-19, are we allowed to pay them under FFCRA and receive the reimbursement tax credits from the government if we also received a PPP loan?
A: Yes, but you cannot be granted PPP forgiveness for those wages paid out under the FFCRA. You can’t “double dip,” and receive PPP forgiveness for the wages that you’re paying for emergency paid sick leave or expanded FMLA, since you’re already getting a reimbursement through federal tax credits. You can utilize both programs. You just can’t “double dip” for the same wages.
Q: If FFCRA leave is used intermittently, is it calculated by days or weeks? Can employees use it if they used time previously this Spring or Summer? Do they have the remaining time left to use before the end of the year?
A: Yes. They still have time remaining if you allowed workers to use some of the time allotted for their FFCRA leave, but they didn’t use all twelve weeks for childcare and school care issues or all of their two weeks of emergency paid sick leave. They are eligible to use the remainder of that time. The time they can use will be reduced by whatever amount they already used this past Spring or Summer after April 1st (but they still have that remainder left). Note that there’s an additional consideration if you’re an employer whose staff can take FMLA. If a worker used FMLA time this year, you’ll also need to subtract that time used from the twelve weeks of FFCRA expanded FMLA time. In terms of measurement, you can calculate 12 workweeks’ worth of hours based upon the employee’s work schedule to determine the number of available hours in their intermittent leave entitlement.
Q: Can an employee be paid more than once for emergency paid sick leave? For example, an employee tested positive and was paid 80 hours of sick time. Two months later, the same employee tested positive again.
A: That sounds unfortunate for you as the employer, and certainly for the employee as well. It depends on how you’re categorizing that leave time. If you use those first 80 hours as FFCRA
or leave, then they’ve exhausted their balance for that. You wouldn’t be able to use and claim FFCRA reimbursement for any more time. However, if your worker had sick time available, they could use sick time as provided under your company policy. If you’re in a state that requires sick leave, and the worker had time available under that category, then they could also use the time for that as well. Note that FFCRA leaves are limited to those two weeks, or up to 80 hours depending on the employee’s schedule. Once it’s used, it’s exhausted. Even with a subsequent positive test.
Q: If an employee is taking an FFCRA leave on an intermittent basis, can they use it for longer than two weeks?
A: It depends on the use. They can’t if it’s for their own illness or taking care of a sick family member—basically anything other than caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed. Besides extended childcare, the total limited time is two weeks. When a leave is taken to care for children whose school or daycare is closed, in most cases they can receive an extra 10 weeks of leave (12 weeks of FFCRA leave in total). Note that in this case, the pay rate will be at only 2/3 the rate of the employee’s usual pay.
HR updates for COVID-19 safety precautions
Q: Regarding the newest CDC guidance as of August 24th, would this mean that our employees do not need to quarantine if they’ve been in contact with a coworker who is positive?
A: If we’re going solely by CDC guidance, yes. Your company policies might differ from that. Your level of potential liability and exposure might also differ from that. Additionally, you may want to look at your state guidelines. They might be more restrictive than that. To answer the question very literally, if you’re simply going by CDC guidelines, then yes. They are saying (somewhat controversially) that you may not need to quarantine those workers who come in contact with somebody who has COVID or COVID-like symptoms. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Q: Can an employee sue if they feel they contacted COVID-19 at work, then got someone else sick, who subsequently died?
A: Let’s begin this answer by saying that anyone can be sued, at any time, for any reason. It’s worth noting that right now, part of the holdup with in the government’s debate over the stimulus bill is that certain members of the Congress and Senate want to pass pieces of the stimulus legislation that would provide legal protection for employers from being sued in situations like that (either by employees or by customers). As of now, of course, nothing explicit like that been passed. There’s also a great deal of opposition to language like that in the stimulus bill. If some legislation passes that includes protections for employers, that answer will change. Until then, yes, you could conceivably be sued in a scenario like that.
HR updates on PPP loans and forgiveness
Q: Is the owner–employee compensation the same if you’re using the 8-week coverage period, the 24–week coverage period, or something in between?
A: The amount of compensation of owners depends on the business type and whether the borrower is using an eight-week or 24-week Covered Period. The amount of loan forgiveness for owner-employees compensation is capped at $20,833 per individual in total across all businesses in which he or she has an ownership stake for the 24-week period. For borrowers that received a PPP loan before June 5, 2020 and elect to use an eight-week Covered Period, this cap is $15,385.
Q: When it comes to PPP loans, are the choices to apply for eight weeks or 24–weeks? Or, can you apply for forgiveness at any time in between?
A: Depending on when the PPP loan was funded, borrowers may elect to use either an 8-week or 24-week covered period. Borrowers can apply for forgiveness before the 24-week covered period is up. There was some guidance in a previous Interim Final Rule that says if your 24-week coverage period is not yet over, but you’ve used up all the money from the loan, you can apply for forgiveness. However, some lenders are requiring borrowers who opt to apply before the end of their covered period to attest that the information and documentation they’ve provided as part of their PPP loan forgiveness application will be reflective of their entire covered period.
The portal for banks to submit forgiveness applications has opened. If you believe your company meets the requirements for partial or full forgiveness and you’re ready to apply, contact your lender. They’ll be able to give you formal, structured guidance in terms of completing the forgiveness application.
If you’re an MP client who utilizes our iSolved system for your payroll, there is an excellent report that several of our clients have already successfully used in filling out their PPP loan forgiveness application. If you’re an MP client, we highly recommend that you reach out to your account manager for help obtaining that report. The only thing they’ll need is your loan origination date. This report will significantly simplify the process of applying for forgiveness.
HR updates on remote school accommodations
Q: Do we need to approve the request if full-time employees want to take longer lunch breaks so they can check up on their kids who are participating in school remotely?
A: Your goal should be to work with employees to come to a solution that’s beneficial for everyone. They might ask to do longer lunch breaks– though it’s up to you to approve it. Another way to think about this time is to count it as an FFCRA intermittent leave. Your staff shouldn’t necessarily take longer lunch breaks without authorization, especially if it’s going to create business workflow problems. Alternatively, don’t forget to consider that working parents are juggling a great deal right now. This is a good time to be as flexible as possible. If it does not pose an undue hardship on business operations, finding a mutually beneficial accommodation is recommended.
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