Even the most learned HR professionals are having an impossible time keeping up with changing regulations these days amidst the coronavirus crisis. Blink and the rules have changed again. Below are three top questions you may want to ask yourself—and the experts around you, like your employment attorney—this week before making more countermoves.
What are employers’ rights with FMLA?
Chances are you’ve never tested certain parts of FMLA before like you will now. And with the extended leave allowed through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, there’s so much more to understand. But what are your rights as an employer? You can still fire a poorly performing employee or include employees on FMLA in companywide layoffs. But you need to be very careful about your reasons and your recordkeeping. Seek the advice of your employment attorney and take a look at these FAQs from the U.S. Department of Labor as well as these helpful tips from Mercer LLC.
Is OSHA watching?
You may have heard that OSHA is scaling back certain requirements due to COVID-19, but don’t let your guard down. It’s true OSHA has instructed compliance officers to gauge “good faith efforts” for many employers when it comes to reporting COVID-19 cases and other injuries in the workplace. OSHA also acknowledges that, for many employers, widespread testing and tracking can be nearly impossible to accomplish. But make no mistake: Inspections are still happening, and employers will be held accountable for determining whether there is “objective evidence” that COVID-19 infections have spread at work (when several employees who work in close proximity to each other become infected, for instance).
Is all forgiven with a CARES Act loan?
If there has ever been a time for HR and accounting to be solidly on the same page, it’s now. As employers big and small grab federal relief dollars by the billions, many aren’t worrying much about how it’ll affect corporate taxes or how it’ll need to be paid back. The loans are “forgivable” after all, right? Maybe. Federal relief comes with strings attached: you need to use the money in a certain way and record how you’re using it very carefully. Laying off or reducing pay for employees can also affect how much of the loan is forgivable. Don’t use a cent for payroll or compensation until your organization has considered potential tax and financial pitfalls.
Ask your employment attorney, corporate CPA, and other professionals for continued guidance in these areas. And for business continuity, employment and recruitment questions, we’re here to help.