In just a few short weeks, COVID-19 has likely brought significant change to your business. As you’re making decisions about what’s best for your company and employees during this uncertain time, here are some important points to keep in mind.
Wage and Benefit Reductions, Layoffs
You have some options in reducing employee work hours and wages. For example, you could keep employees working yet reduce their salary or hourly rates, provided that you’re still paying at least minimum wage to hourly workers. Or you might want to reduce or pause retirement benefits until the public health and economic situations stabilize. Talk with your employees about options that will help both the business and them.
If you choose to lower the pay of a salaried employee, remember that it must be a salary reduction rather a pay cut due to a work shortage. The latter is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Also, salaried employees whose salary is reduced can file for unemployment assistance. Note that the state of Georgia requires all employers who are reducing or cutting employee hours due to the coronavirus to file for unemployment benefits on behalf of the employee. Read more about this on our blog: Emergency Rule in Georgia: Mandatory Filing by Employers for Partial Claims During Temporary Shutdowns
Additionally, if you do find it necessary to lay off a salaried employee, be sure that they don’t do any work for you until you hire them again and pay them at their negotiated rate.
Encouraging employees to work remotely is a great way to keep them employed and help avoid potential on-the-job virus exposure. For hourly employees, be sure to provide clear parameters about their start and end times, how they should keep track of hours worked and disconnecting during nonwork hours (turning off their phones, not responding to emails, etc.). As an employer, if you do not provide clear and specific information about your expectations, you may face issues with overtime — that could include having to pay hefty amounts in wages or penalties if overtime if not properly paid.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
Congress recently passed the FFCRA as a way to offer relief to workers affected by the coronavirus and its economic effects. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the FFCRA “requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19,” effective April 1. This act provides for employees to receive up to 10 weeks of partially paid time off when they are quarantined, sick with the virus or taking care of child and unable to work, remotely or on-site. The amount of pay is determined based on the situation, and caps exist for the amount to be paid.
Mary Smith, SHRM-SCP, is HR and Payroll Manager for CB Smith & Associates and its clients. Her human resource strengths are in employee performance improvement and processes that boost work functions. That can include developing ways to streamline work flows, helping develop policies to reduce employee dissatisfaction, creating training programs to improve work skills, employee coaching and helping owners/managers understand HR functions that help their business. She also has a strong background in creating compensation/reward systems, training programs and performance review programs.