QUESTION: Several of our staff have requested to work less hours per week because of the current unavailability of childcare due to COVID 19. Based on the recent pandemic-related employment rule changes, are we required to pay these employees for their full-time schedule or can we only pay them what they work?
Question from Fort Lauderdale, Florida Subscriber
ANSWER:To help families during COVID-19, the government has implemented several employment-rule changes in the forms of the following acts:
- FMLA – Family Medical Leave Act
- FFCRA – Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- EFMLEA – Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
- EPSL – Emergency Paid Sick Leave
Both the EFMLEA and EPSL are subsets of FFCRA. One their aims is to hold positions for employees who cannot work or are caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed. Physician’s offices, however, are exempt from FFCRA. Therefore, you are no required to pay employee for time they do not actually work.
Not being obligated to pay your staff for time they don’t work is good for you, but creates some significant financial challenge for your employees. Consider providing your staff with the following ideas to help them through these difficult times:
- Use Paid Time Off Benefits: Check if your employee has vacation, sick leave, or Paid Time Off (PTO). If you want to pay her for the reduced hours and she wants to take those benefits, you can apply the allocated days off to the hours missed.
- Apply for Unemployment: Check whether your state unemployment benefits cover partial absences. Many states allow an employee who has reduced pay from reduced hours to receive pay from the employer and benefits pay for the underwork. Unemployment rules count absence due to COVID-19 related issues such as daycare and school closings as a covered absence. If the state unemployment allows partial pay and benefits, consider having the employee file for unemployment.
- Reduce Salary: As long as an employee is not under contract with you, reducing their compensation to take into account less worked hours should not be a problem. However, if your employee does have a contact, reducing their pay could potentially constitute a breach in its terms. In these situations it is recommended that you discuss the situation with your legal counsel before making any changes.
This Q&A is from healthcare attorney Kelly Holden’s online training “New COVID-19 Employment Rules: Head Off Legal Nightmares.” For more answers to your essential COVID-19 employment questions, listen to her session available for immediate download. Kelly will walk you through each of the COVID-19-related employer regulations and give you expert advice on how you can use them to help your employees, AND protect your practice.
COVID-19 Resources For Your Success
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