Unemployment has been a key talking point since the pandemic began. Record numbers have been set week over week for the last two months. With that has come new regulations and programs to help assist those in need right now. Here are points you might not have known about.
The CARES Act has increased the number of eligible people able to receive unemployment. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program affects everybody from self-employed individuals, service workers, and more. With these provisions, an employee might be eligible for unemployment for the following:
- An employee permanently or temporarily laid off due to coronavirus measures
- An employee whose work hours were reduced due to coronavirus measures
- A self-employed individual who has lost income due to coronavirus measures
- A quarantined individual who can’t work due to coronavirus
- An individual unable to work due to a risk of exposure to coronavirus
- An individual who can’t work because they’re caring for a family member due to coronavirus
There is also additional help under Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), a flat rate of $600 given to those who qualify for unemployment earning $1 or more in weekly benefits. This benefit is retroactive to date of eligibility or date of agreement by state, whichever came later.
As businesses start to reopen, employers might find employees who don’t wish to return to work. This could be the case for a variety of reason which include (but are not limited to):
- An employee was making more on unemployment
- An employee is in a high-risk category and afraid to come back to worked
- Daycare and schools are still closed
- Family members in high-risk categories
- Concerns about workplace safety
Navigating these scenarios can be challenging. Prioritizing the safety of your employees should be a top priority. Make sure you are complying with state and CDC guidelines for social distancing and PPE, but also remember to communicate clearly with your employees on how you are achieving these guidelines. Even if you are taking the correct precautionary measures, effective communication on how this is being achieved can go a long way in helping ease concerns.
Keep in mind employees may also be eligible for benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) after they are recalled to the workplace. It is also important to be mindful that reasonable accommodations may need to be provided in order to comply with the ADA.
For example, this could be a good opportunity to make employees who have newly found themselves working-from-home (WFH) a more permanent arrangement if possible. This is the safest option for the individual and could be a great option for employees who prefer WFH. This is also a choice for employees who have workplace safety concerns for themselves or risk exposure of loved ones.
Other examples of this could be staggered work shifts to minimize the amount of interaction between employees and new organization of workspaces. There are employees who might prefer the separated office work environment or even a mixture of WFH and office days. Work with managers to see what might be best for your employees.
There are a lot of details surrounding returning to work and employment benefits as parts of the country move to reopen. For more information, see these resources:
- COVID Vaccine Mandates: A Roadmap for Employers
- 6 Best Practices for Encouraging COVID Vaccination and Maintaining HR Compliance: Part 2
- Reducing Risk for COVID Lawsuits: The Essential Checklist
- COVID Vaccine Mandates: 6 Considerations When Employees Can’t or Won’t Get Vaccinated
- 6 Best Practices for Encouraging COVID Vaccination and Maintaining HR Legal Compliance: Part 1
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