As the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak continues to spread in the U.S., employers in states including California, New York and Washington are expanding and updating their Sick, PTO and Telecommuting policies to better adhere to recommendations from health authorities. Even in areas with low to no confirmed cases of COVID-19, health agencies are recommending the practice of “social distancing” to reduce person-to-person contact. In many states and counties, authorities are recommending that schools and certain businesses close to reduce the risk of community spread. In response, large companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft immediately moved to allow as many employees to work remotely as possible to lessen the risk of exposure for essential workplace personnel, and some even committed to paying full wages to hourly workers whose hours were reduced due to closures.

Smaller businesses face the challenge of adhering to health agency recommendations and keeping employees safe and healthy while operating with more limited resources. Below are some of the most complicated issues small businesses are facing right now:

Transitioning to Telecommuting

As “social distancing” and “voluntary isolation” become instrumental in helping to curb the spread of illness, companies are having to revisit their position on telecommuting and begin the transition for employees. For smaller businesses it can be difficult to implement all at once, so they may begin with the most high-risk employees or those that request it. Having a comprehensive home office checklist can help employers better prepare for this transition.   

Changing or Expanding PTO Policies

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising employers to “ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.” Employers can require employees to stay home for 14 days if they exhibit symptoms consistent with the virus, if they have recently traveled through a high-risk country or if they have been exposed to someone with the virus.

This can be difficult to adhere to for some, particularly hourly employees, that may not have enough sick or paid time off to accommodate a 14-day leave, which could encourage them not to reveal themselves if they pose a risk. Employers are being encouraged to relax their policies to allow for ample paid time off whenever possible.

When to use EDD

The State of California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) has resources available for workers who are unable to work for a variety of reasons, or for those whose hours have been reduced. Some

  • Workers who are unable to work due to caring for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional) can file a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim. Eligible workers can receive up to six weeks of benefit payments.
  • Workers who are unable to work due to having or being exposed to COVID-19 (certified by a medical professional) can file a Disability Insurance (DI) claim. Eligible workers can receive short-term benefit payments to cover the time they are out of work from the illness.
  • Workers who are unable to work due to school closures may be eligible to file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim. Eligibility is dependent on several factors, such as having no other care options and being unable to continue working your normal hours remotely, among others.
  • Workers whose hours have been reduced or stopped completely by their employer due to COVID-19, can file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim. Workers who are temporarily unemployed due to COVID-19 and expected to return to work with their employer within a few weeks are not required to actively seek work each week. However, they must remain able and available and ready to work during their unemployment for each week of benefits claimed and meet all other eligibility criteria.

For more helpful information, please visit our COVID-19 Employer Resource Center at https://emplicity.com/coronavirus/.

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About Emplicity:
Since 1995, Emplicity has provided a smarter, more secure, and integrated platform of employer services to its 300 business clients and their 8,500 employees. As a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, the California-based HR outsourcing firm simplifies the compliance, administration, and support businesses need in the areas of employee benefits, payroll, and human resources technology.

For more information about us, visit www.emplicity.com or call us at (877) 476-2339. We’d love to make your employee management more simple—and secure.

NOTICE: Emplicity provides HR advice and recommendations. Information provided by Emplicity is not intended as a substitute for employment law counsel. At no time will Emplicity have the authority or right to make decisions on behalf of its clients.

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