- Large employers report they are putting a number of measures in place — pay continuation, expanded flexibility to work from home and boosting health benefits — to support employees as workplaces continue to grapple with the impact of the novel coronavirus. The Business Group on Health conducted the survey of 95 large employers between March 9 and 13, 2020.
- Slightly more than a third (34%) of employers say they are continuing to pay employees who are unable to work. Another 25% said they are considering doing so. About the same amount (23%) said they will pay employees who are quarantined and ineligible for leave. Fewer (16%) reported they will do so for employees showing symptoms, and 14% said they will pay employees who are caring for symptomatic family. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they are adding emergency paid leave or additional sick leave while 27% said they will do so as needed.
- Nearly all surveyed reported they either have or will put into place remote work policies for employees who may have been exposed to the virus, and 91% have or will adopt such policies for employees with cold or flu-like symptoms.
In a recent guidance for employers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggested a number of ways for employers to deal with the pandemic, including developing policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick people.
As the survey indicates, a rapidly increasing number of employers are adopting or expanding remote work policies. If they order some employees to work remotely, they should take care to send employees home based on exposure and symptoms, not any other protected characteristic.
Of course, the emergency bill recently signed by President Trump expanded family and medical leave as well as guaranteed paid sick leave. Provisions in the bill affect private employers with fewer than 500 employees, but the law allows the Secretary of Labor to exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees "when the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern."
In the short run, employers covered by the law are responsible for paying for FMLA leave and paid sick leave provisions. Employers may be eligible for tax credits to help, sources previously told HR Dive. However, the credits apply to only certain employer taxes, and those savings likely wouldn't be realized until 2021.