COVID-19 Office Staff and HR FAQs
Of course, the shutdown was uncharted territory – but even months later, re-opening has presented orthodontic practices with yet another set of challenges, particularly for staff. CEDR HR Solutions and others provide comprehensive resources to guide you and your staff moving forward.
Government Updates FFCRA Rules on Healthcare Employees Paid Sick Leave
Last spring, the U.S. government enacted the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA), which addresses paid sick leave requirements and other COVID-19-related situations pertaining to employment.
On September 16, the U.S. Department of Labor announced updated guidance on the FFRCA in response to a federal court ruling that was released in August. The DOL clarified who is or is not considered a healthcare provider using a new, narrower definition.
AAO members who have been classifying their teams as healthcare providers, thus exempting them from using paid FFCRA leave, are urged to review the updates because the exemption is more limited than it was previously. A blog post by CEDR HR (linked below) reports details concerning the updated DOL policy, covering issues such as:
- How and why the definition of a healthcare provider has changed;
Using emergency leave on an intermittent basis;
Paying employees when businesses are closed or no work is available;
Leave documentation, including why it is important to document each situation in which an employee requests paid leave and your decision-making regarding whether the employee meets the exemption requirements.
What to Do if An Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19: CEDR HR Offers Guidance
CEDR HR Solutions has produced a video about employees testing positive for COVID-19, featuring company founder Paul Edwards.
The video reviews current CDC guidance and offers risk assessment recommendations. To support the risk assessment process, CEDR HR encourages employers to bookmark the following websites:
- Risk Assessment and Work Restrictions for Healthcare Personnel with Potential Exposure to COVID-19
- Criteria for Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19
In addition, CEDR HR compiled step-by-step recommendations on what to do if there is a potential exposure in your office:
Handling Ongoing Concerns About Employees Contracting the Coronavirus.
Practical Guidance for Employers Provided by CEDR HR Solutions
We know there is a lot of information – and misinformation – about the Coronavirus and how to handle the HR challenges that it is causing in the workplace. Our goal is to provide you with guidance on how to handle this as an employer — practical solutions for the impact the Coronavirus may have on your business. We will continue to update this guidance as news changes, and in response to questions we receive from our members.
- View this form letter for offers of reemployment for your employees.
- View this form letter for updates on employee health insurance premiums.
Guidance from SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management)
Does Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave apply for employees or immediate family members who may contract coronavirus?
Yes, assuming that the FMLA applies to the practice, coronavirus would qualify as a “serious health condition” under FMLA, allowing an employee to take FMLA leave if either the employee or an immediate family member contracts the disease. The employee would be entitled to job reinstatement as well. State law may provide additional leave benefits.
Would I need to pay workers’ compensation for employees who contract coronavirus?
Perhaps, if the employees contracted the disease in the course of their employment. Does the employees’ work require them to be exposed to persons who are infected? Typically, health care workers fall into this category. If an employee incidentally contracts the disease from a co-worker, there likely will be no workers’ compensation liability. If there is workers’ compensation liability, employers are responsible for covering the costs of reasonable and necessary medical care, temporary total disability benefits, and permanent disability (if any). Employers should engage a competent medical professional on infectious diseases for advice to determine whether the disease is work-related.
Would I need to pay my employees disability benefits if they contract the coronavirus?
Yes, if such payments are provided in a practices’ benefit plan. Practices should review the limits of coverage in the benefit plan to ensure they have competent medical resources to administer the program.
Would I need to pay employees who go on leave during a quarantine period or because they have contracted coronavirus?
Perhaps. In the absence of a contract, hourly employees work at-will and are not guaranteed wages or hours. In other words, these employees do not need to be paid. Exempt employees do not have to be paid if they are sent home for an entire workweek. However, if exempt workers work for part of the workweek, they would have to be paid for the entire week.
Is there an obligation to accommodate employees who do not want to work in public-facing positions due to risk of infection?
There may be an obligation to accommodate such employees if there is some objective evidence that they could potentially be exposed to individuals who may have returned from China—for example, airport employees who deal with travelers from China. Employees should not be disciplined for refusing to work if they believe that there is a risk of infection because making such a complaint may be a protected activity. If the employer can establish that there is no basis for any exposure to the disease, the employee does not have to be paid during the time period the employee refuses to work.