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Maintaining Employee Fiscal Welfare When Returning to Work

by Madison Meltz

As restrictions start to ease across the country, businesses are beginning to open back up. Employers are now faced with determining when, how, and at what capacity they should begin to resume operations. Further still, employers must now evaluate how best to balance getting back to business while appreciating the goal of maintaining employee financial security during this time.

Before diving in to various options, it is important to layout key financial factors to consider for employers in NY State:

  • Employers will be charged for regular unemployment insurance benefits
  • Worker’s Compensation claims due to COVID-19 will not be factored into an employer’s experience rating as of December 1, 2019
  • Employers will not be charged for all federally funded COVID-relief programs (i.e. PUA, PUC, PUEC, etc.).
  • The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides federally funded loans that cover up to $10M in company costs such as employee pay, rent, insurance, paid sick or medical leave, utilities, or other payroll-related costs from 2/15/20 – 12/31/20.
  • An employee can refuse to return to work and continue to collect unemployment benefits only if the refusal is based on a situation directly resulting from COVID-19

Now, understanding these factors, what steps can employers take to leverage the current environment to best assist employees?

A few possible options to consider are as follows:

  1. Collaborate with employees: Employers can and should make changes to the workplace to protect employee health. In tandem, the EEOC stated that employers can send out proactive communications about providing specific work accommodations for employees on an individualized basis. Alerting all employees of potential accommodations can increase their willingness and ability to return to work. However, be mindful that individualistic treatment of certain employees, even with the best of intentions, can manifest into illegal “disparate treatment”of the workforce.
  2. Apply for the New York State Shared Work Program: The Shared Work program, sponsored by the Department of Labor, gives employers an alternative to laying off or reducing pay for employees by allowing them to work a reduced schedule. Employees who are a part of the shared work program will receive partial UI benefits to supplement their lost income from to their hour reduction. An employer will not be charged for shared work benefits as they are federally funded, and can fund the reduce-hour wages through a PPP loan. For more information, click here.
  3. Compile additional resources:In addition to these options, it is also beneficial to provide additional resources for employees beyond state and federally sponsored unemployment benefit plans. A non-exhaustive list of employment-centric resources for NYS can be found here.

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