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Originally published by Three Sixty HR – the HR experts, Menlo Park, CA

A Quick Guide for Employers Impacted by COVID-19 “Shelter-In-Place” Requirements

Note: this guide is California-centric. Check your local state rules for nationwide use.

Workplace disruptions and developments in response to COVID-19 are very fluid. There are some commonsense guidelines, augmented by modifications in government programs and requirements, that can help you and your employees. We have created this brief guide to help during this uncertain and unprecedented time.

  1. If you temporarily close and send employees home without work to do…
    • Your employees may use accrued vacation or PTO to continue their pay for as long as possible.
    • Employees may apply online for Unemployment Insurance (UI). CA has waived the seven-day waiting period, but it may take a few weeks for payments to start. You don’t have to terminate employment for employees to be eligible for UI. (edd.ca.gov/Unemployment)
    • Consider augmenting UI, if possible. Remember that UI will only provide partial pay replacement.
    • Continue employees’ medical insurance and other benefits during their absence.
    • Stay in touch with your employees. This is important!
  1. If you temporarily close and send employees home with work to do…
    • Be sure employees have the tools to work from home. If they do not have some or all the tools, you are responsible for providing them.
    • Reimburse employees for use of their personal services (e.g., cellphone, internet) needed to work from home.
    • If employees are in nonexempt (hourly) positions, be sure to reiterate in writing the requirements to take meal and rest breaks, and to accurately record their time worked.
      Be sure to state your policy regarding overtime and checking email and voice mail. Employees may use your automated timekeeping system if they can access it from home. If you don’t have an automated system, we have attached a manual form. Tell employees when and to whom time reports are due. Collect the signed time reports when employees return to work.
    • If employees are in exempt (salaried/management) positions, they will most likely need to be paid a full week’s pay if they do any work during the workweek, including checking email and voice mail. If they request in writing a full day off work, they may use accrued vacation, PTO or sick leave for that day. Otherwise, they need to be paid for a full workweek if they do any work during the workweek, including checking voice mail and email.
    • Continue employees’ medical insurance and other benefits during their absence.

1There is a state notice requirement concerning mass layoffs of 50 or more people during a 30-day period in a facility that employs 75 or more people within the preceding 12 months. An employer who meets this threshold should consult with counsel.


— Stay in touch with your employees. This is important! —


  1. If your business is open but you send an employee home, or s/he self-quarantines, due to exposure to the virus…
    • Will they work from home? follow #2. 
    • They will not work from home, or will reduce their hours while working from home, follow #1 except the employee may apply for State Disability Insurance (SDI). CA has waived the seven-day waiting period. It may take a few weeks for payments to start, but SDI will provide partial pay replacement. Then follow the rest of #1. (edd.ca.gov/Disability/Disability_Insurance.htm
    • If exposure to the virus occurred in the workplace, an employee may file a Workers’ Compensation claim instead of SDI. Employers are responsible for providing the paperwork to employees who need to file a Workers’ Compensation claim.
    • Do not require a doctor’s note confirming the beginning/end of a temporary disability.
  1. If your business is open but your otherwise healthy employee can’t work due to caring for a family member who is ill, or for a child whose school has closed…
    • Your employee may use accrued sick leave, vacation and/or PTO to continue pay for as long as possible.
    • If they do not work from home or work reduced hours while working from home, follow #1 except the employee may apply for Paid Family Leave (PFL) for partial pay replacement. (edd.ca.gov/Disability/Paid_Family_Leave.htm)
    • Follow the rest of #1.

Delivery Services: If your business is such that your employees can be converted to delivery drivers or are delivery drivers (e.g., drivers for restaurant take-out orders), ensure employees have a current driver’s license and proof of insurance. Make sure your company liability policy will cover them as drivers for the business. Have a clear written policy regarding distracted (cell phone, text, email, GPS) driving. Contact us if you don’t have a policy. Track and reimburse mileage, tolls, etc. Ensure employees follow CDC safety guidelines when interacting with customers.

Retaining Staff: Business will resume and employees will go back to work. Your ability to retain valued staff may hinge on how well you communicate with employees and mitigate their financial hardships. If employees sense that you are trying to do everything you can for them and the business, you are more likely to retain staff.

Employees: are concerned about pay, benefits and keeping their jobs. Encourage employees to use all their accrued benefits as well as take advantage of state income replacement programs. Jobs should be held open for employees who held them before the mandatory shelter-in-place and before they missed work due to COVID-19. Keep employees’ benefits in force for as long as possible. (This may be mandated.)

Government: Intervention. Federal, state and local governments are working hard to find ways to lessen the financial impact of COVID-19 on employers and employees. These ideas include everything from cash payments to payroll tax credits to prohibiting evictions. Stay alert to legislation, announcements and news stories. Coordinating multiple relief/benefit programs will be another issue entirely. It is going to take a while to sort all this out.

There may be additional forms of relief offered to individuals and businesses through CA’s Work Sharing Program. It is designed to address a temporary reduction in hours where regular pay is augmented by UI. (edd.ca.gov/unemployment/Work_Sharing_Program.htm)

Bottom line. Be careful, patient and thoughtful. We must do the things we can to help each other. Please understand that things are changing rapidly and that some of this information could be outdated by the end of the day. We hope this information helps.

Resources:

CDC’s Guidance for Businesses: 

cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/

DLSE FAQs on Sick Leave and Time Off: 

dir.ca.gov/dlse/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm 

EDD FAQs and Wage Replacement Assistance: 

edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/faqs.htm www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm 

i4cp Resource Center: 

i4cp.com/coronavirus 

Leadership in Uncertainty 

tablegroup.com/hub/post/a-few-thoughts-for-leaders-and-managers/ 

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