- Forward-thinking employers will prioritize adaptable leave policies, safety, long-term flexibility, caregiving support and health and well-being benefits as COVID-19 surges in the U.S., according to a Nov. 20 report from Mercer examining six employer surveys conducted from April to October.
- Mercer noted that the most important objective right now is an emergency leave policy that ensures employees are able to quarantine as needed in the face of a second wave of the coronavirus. Mercer suggested that employers think about this objective in the context of a broader leave program and consider a "new, more sustainable approach to PTO" and leave policies that coordinate with emergency COVID-19 related leave mandated by federal, state and local governments.
- Leave and paid time off policies became more flexible during the pandemic, Mercer found. Nineteen percent of respondents to its April survey had an existing emergency leave policy in place that could cover COVID-19 leave, and 21% said they didn't need such a policy. "It became clear that employers needed a leave policy that would encourage employees to quarantine if they or a family member were exposed to COVID-19." Mercer's July survey found that employers "were moving in that direction," Mercer said.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is a federal law that took effect on April 1 and, in addition to caregiver leave, requires businesses with fewer than 500 workers to provide up 80 hours of paid sick leave to full-time workers who can't work because of COVID-19. The law is set to expire Dec. 31.
Several cities and a few states also have approved emergency quarantine leave, Mercer noted in its report. Most of those laws, like the FFCRA, are set to expire at the end of the year, "but the pandemic is not," Mercer said. To address the need for leave, Mercer suggested employers consider:
- What percent of employees have exhausted their leave?
- Can those employees work remotely?
- Have employees built up a surplus of PTO that could be used for quarantines?
- Does the list of eligible reasons for emergency leave include school closings and, if not, should it?
- Given the status of the business, how much more PTO can the organization afford to provide?
An extension of the federal leave requirement was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives but awaits action by the U.S. Senate.