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    4 Steps to Take When an Employee is Diagnosed with COVID-19
    How to Help Employees Communicate More Effectively
    9 Work Trends Leaders Can't Ignore

9 Compliance Requirements to Consider for a Remote Workforce

According to Gallup, the number of days employees are working remotely has doubled during the pandemic. Some companies are even considering making a remote work arrangements permanent. While there are no laws that exclusively apply to remote workplaces, remote work does come with additional compliance risks. Below is our general guidance for employers. 

Logging Hours & Preparing Paychecks

Make sure that employees are logging all of their time. Keep in mind that when working from home, the boundaries between work and home life are easy to blur. Employees may be racking up “off the clock” work, and even overtime, that they aren’t being paid for. While this may seem harmless enough in the moment, particularly if the employee isn’t complaining, unpaid wages can come back to bite you once the employee is on their way out the door.

Minimum Wage

Employees should be paid at least the minimum wage of the state where they physically work, whether this is a satellite office or their own home. Beyond that, it’s important to be aware that some cities and counties have even higher minimum wages than the state they are located in. In general, with most employment laws, you should follow the law that is most beneficial to the employee.

Breaks

Remote employees must take all required break and rest periods required by law, as if they were in the workplace.

Harassment Prevention Considerations

You may have employees working in a state that has a lower bar for what’s considered harassment or that requires harassment prevention training. You can find this information on the State Law pages on the HR Support Center.

Remote work also comes with additional opportunities for harassment (even if it doesn’t rise to the level of illegal harassment) such as employees wearing clothing that crosses the line into inappropriate, roommates in the background unaware that they are on camera, or visible objects that other employees may consider offensive. You can prevent these sorts of incidents by having clear, documented expectations about remote meetings, communicating those expectations to your employees, and holding everyone accountable to them. It also wouldn’t hurt to occasionally remind everyone to be mindful that they and what’s behind them are visible to coworkers when they’re on video. That said, going overboard with standards that you’re applying to employees’ private homes can cause anxiety and morale issues, so make sure your restrictions have some logical business-related explanation.

Workplace Posters

Many of the laws related to workplace posters were written decades before the internet, and so their requirements don’t always make sense given today’s technology.


The safest option to ensure you’re complying will all posting requirements in one fell swoop is to mail hard copies of any applicable workplace posters to remote employees and let them do what they like with the posters at their home office. If you have employees in multiple states, you should send each employee the required federal posters, plus any applicable to the state in which they work.


Alternatively, more risk-tolerant employers often provide these required notices and posters on a company website or employee self-service portal that employees can access. A number of newer posting laws expressly allow for electronic posting, but this option is not necessarily compliant with every posting law out there.

FMLA Eligibility

Remote employees who otherwise qualify will be eligible for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if they report to or receive work assignments from a location that has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.


According to the FMLA regulations, the worksite for remote employees is “the site to which they are assigned as their home base, from which their work is assigned, or to which they report.” So, for example, if a remote employee working in Frisco, TX, reports to their company’s headquarters in Portland, OR, and that site in Portland has 65 employees working within a 75-mile radius, then the employee in Frisco may be eligible for FMLA. However, if the site in Portland has only 42 employees, then the remote employee would not be eligible for FMLA. The distance of the remote employee from the company’s headquarters is immaterial.

Verifying I-9's

In normal circumstances, the physical presence requirement of the Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9, requires that employers, or an authorized representative, physically examine, in the employee’s physical presence, the unexpired document(s) the employee presents from the Lists of Acceptable Documents to complete the Documents fields in Form I-9’s Section 2.

However, in March, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) temporarily suspended the physical presence requirement for employers and workplaces that are operating remotely due to COVID-19 related precautions. In other words, employers with employees taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 (and operating remotely) are not required to review the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. Inspection should instead be done remotely. As of the date of this newsletter, this temporary rule is still in effect.

Equipment

n some states, an employer is required either to provide employees with the tools and items necessary to complete the job or to reimburse employees for these expenses. However, workstation equipment like desks and chairs is usually not included in this category of necessary items.


That said, an employee might request a device or some form of furniture as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so they can perform the essential functions of their job. In such cases, you would consider it like any other ADA request. Allowing them to take home their ergonomic office chair, for example, would probably not be an undue hardship and therefore something you should do.

Deciding Who Can Work from Home

You may offer different benefits or terms of employment to different groups of employees as long as the distinction is based on non-discriminatory criteria. For instance, a telecommuting option or requirement can be based on the type of work performed, employee classification (exempt v. non-exempt), or location of the office or the employee. You should be able to support the business justification for allowing or requiring certain groups to telecommute.

Legal Disclaimer: Payroll Experts is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a license attorney. Payroll Experts cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to this receipt.

                             Take Your Workforce Paperless

Employee Self Service & Direct Deposit

Employee Self Service & Direct Deposit

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Time and Accrual Management

Time and Accrual Management Tools

Collect employee time, develop intuitive schedules and approve/reject/modify time-off requests. Managers will have the information they need to still have visibility into their teams day.

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Leave of Absence Requests and Tracking

Leave of Absence Requests & Tracking

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Performance Management

Performance Management

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Families First Coronavirus Response Act Notice- FAQS
Federal Labor Law Posting Update- Employee Rights
Pandemic Flu and the Family and Medical Leave Act: Q&A's
Remote Hires- I-9 Compliance & Requirements
Paycheck Protection Program: sba.gov
CARES Act- Full Bill Here: congress.gov
Guide to the CARES Act & Small Business Resources: sbc.senate.gov
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources: cdc.gov

Support the Mental Health of Your Employees During COVID-19

When social distancing and self-quarantine are needed to limit and control the spread of the disease, continued social connectedness to maintain recovery are critical. Access vital virtual recovery resources below!

Virtual Recovery Resources

CDC Guidance for Reopening Buildings

As office buildings begin to reopen, employers can take steps to create a safe and healthy workplace and protect workers and clients. The CDC recommends starting by creating a COVID-19 workplace health and safety plan.

Learn More

Resuming Business Toolkit: COVID-19

This toolkit, provided by the CDC, is designed to assist employers in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and lowering the impact in their workplace when reintegrating employees into non-healthcare business settings. 

Access Toolkit

Give Your Employees Access to Their Earned Wages Before Payday!

Allow employees still working during COVID-19 to access their wages before payday. The system looks at daily pay vs. time worked along with maximums you set to determine how much pay can be taken ahead of time. Simply download the app! No interest, monthly maintenance or usage fees. Once an employee signs up and pushes earnings ahead of check-date, funds will be made available on a VISA debit card with no fees for: POS transactions, ATM transactions, account transfers, or online transactions.

Learn More

Sample Employee Notice- Face Coverings

Note to employers: State and local laws and orders may provide different or additional requirements for employers regarding masks or face coverings, including guidance on whether employers must provide and pay for them, who must maintain and clean them, and more. Review applicable mandates to ensure compliance. 

Download Sample Notice Here

Help Bring Your Employees Back to Work Safely: COVID-19 Digital Screening

A Company Nurse Solution

Safely and confidently ease your team back to the workplace with COVID-19 digital screening and triage guidance! Screen employees before they return to the workplace with the most up-to-date CDC guidelines, so you can be sure that they are healthy and ready to return to the workplace!

Download Overview
Learn More!

Sample Welcome Back Letter

Welcome your employee's back to work and acknowledge the changes you have made to further ensure workplace safety and protocols. Access a sample letter below. Be sure to adjust language as necessary and check state & local public health guidance as you formulate return to work plans for your organization.

Download Sample Notice Here

Pandemic Response Training Courses

Available Now!

Ensure you and your team have the right tools to navigate uncertainty by having access to pandemic response training's. Ten courses are available and range from managing in a crisis to forging ahead with perseverance and resilience!

Access Course Catalog
Learn More!

Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

Access OSHA's guide below to assure safe and healthful working conditions as you reopen the workplace.

Access Guide Here

How to Help Employees Communicate More Effectively

In an ideal world, communication would be easy. We'd immediately know exactly what to say or write. Emails, Slack messages, and reply threads would practically write themselves. And there'd be no confusion about what anyone meant, ever. 


Of course, communication never works that way. We stare at the computer screen trying to decide how to begin an email. We misspeak or garble our words. We don’t always convey exactly what we intend. We misunderstand, overlook, or forget information we’ve been given. We also sometimes read emotions into words that weren’t what the writer was feeling. Or we pack our speech with such an emotional punch that it distracts from the point we’re trying to make.


Written communication often exacerbates these issues, a fact that has many leaders worried since more people are working remotely and relying on the written word to do their jobs. It's 

no secret that we spend far too much time on email and other communication tools.


Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to hire a writing coach to teach your employees better writing skills—although this can in some cases be a good idea. You can significantly improve communication in your organization by asking your employees to consider the following practices in their written communications:

Break up long sentences and paragraphs.

A big unbroken block of text is likely to befuddle your reader before they even get to the first word. Long sentences and paragraphs also make comprehension and retention of information much more difficult. Note the differences in these two communications:

Sample 1: I support the goals outlined in the proposal you sent to me yesterday, especially the need to better define appropriate metrics around the solicitation of customer satisfaction scores, and I want to thank you for the thought you gave to proposing workable solutions, but I’m not sure if all of the proposed solutions will work at this time. Let’s discuss it all at our next check-in.

Sample 2: Thank you for sending the proposal yesterday. I appreciate the thought you put into it. I agree with you about the goals, especially what you wrote about customer satisfaction scores. The solutions you proposed, however, may be a challenge to implement right away. Let’s discuss the proposal at our next check-in.

These samples provide the same information, but the second is easier to follow and digest. 

Avoid unnecessary details.

While some context is useful, too much can overwhelm the reader and add to the time it takes for the communication to be written, read, and acted on.

Sample 1: I ran into Lindsay in the lunchroom and asked her about the Paterson deal. She asked me to follow up with her after her lunch break, which I did, and she gave me permission to start on the outline. She seemed a little aggravated that I interrupted her lunch. Anyway, I need to respond to a few emails before I get started on it, but I will get to it after and have it to you and her by close of business today.

Sample 2: I got the go ahead from Lindsay on the Paterson deal. I’m working on the outline and will email it to you and her by close of business today.

The first sample likely has too much information. The writer may have felt like including the extra details because they felt bad about asking Lindsay to work on her lunch break, but unless there’s a good reason for the recipient to know those details, they’re best left out. 

Use clear, concrete terms.

Vague words, convoluted ideas, and broad generalizations make for easy miscommunication. Your reader will be more likely to understand your meaning if your language is specific. Remember too that just because something is clear to you doesn’t necessarily mean it will be clear to your reader. Compare these two statements:

Sample 1: Would you be able to review the thing I sent you earlier?

Sample 2: Here’s the letter for Anil I told you about this morning. Would you be able to proofread it for typos by the end of the day?

The first sample is likely to cause confusion and frustration if the recipient has recently received a lot of “things” from the writer or other people. In contrast, the second sample makes the context and the requested task clear to the reader.



Save difficult or emotionally intense conversations for calls, video conferences, or in-person meetings.

These conversations usually require more finesse than written text can provide. If you anticipate a strong emotional response to what you have to say, or if you believe the person with whom you’ll be communicating may read strong emotions into what you have to say, don’t write to them. Talk it through instead. Let them hear your voice and listen carefully to theirs. 
















Provide context and direction when adding someone to a conversation.

Most of us have had the experience of receiving a forwarded email that we’re not immediately sure what to do with. Should we keep it as a reference? Read through the thread? Respond in some way? We haven’t been told. Don’t do this. You should clue the reader in to what the conversation entails and what they need to know and do in response. Compare:

Sample 1: Please see below. What do you think?

Sample 2: Please read through the conversation below and note the product request from Oliver. Is that something you can add to your work this week?


The first sample is likely to prompt the recipient to weigh in on the wrong subject or ask the writer for clarification before responding, wasting valuable time either way. The second sample gives clear instruction, saving time.




Legal Disclaimer: Payroll Experts is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a license attorney. Payroll Experts cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to this receipt.

Four Steps to Take When an Employee is Diagnosed with COVID-19

As COVID-19 infection rates continue to climb, it's imperative that organizations respond quickly when an employee is diagnosed. Here are the steps employers should take:

Notify Employees

Employees should be notified of potential exposure in the workplace, but they should not be told who is sick. Employees won't like that they can't gauge their own risk, but the ADA requires this type of information remain confidential. Don't worry if employees figure it out on their own, but make sure you're not the one to reveal the information.

Assess the Risk

If there was close contact for a prolonged period (about six feet or less for 15 minutes or more over the course of 24 hours), exposed employees should quarantine. If you aren't confident in your risk assessment, call your local or state health authority to help you determine which employees should quarantine.

Disinfect Areas

The CDC recommends the following practices: 

  • Close off areas used by the person who is sick for 24 hours, if possible.
  • Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
  • Clean/disinfect areas and items used by the person who is sick. 

Determine When

Sick employees should work with their healthcare provider to determine when to return to the workplace. Generally, an employee will be okay to return when at least 2 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of medication, and other symptoms have improved, and at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared or since the positive test result, if the employee is asymptomatic.

Back-to-School: Frequently Asked Questions about Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Q. My employee’s child’s school is operating on an alternate day (or other hybrid-attendance) basis. The school is open each day, but students alternate between days attending school in person and days participating in remote learning. They are permitted to attend school only on their allotted in-person attendance days. Can the employee take paid leave under the FFCRA in these circumstances?

A. Yes, employees are eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA on days when their child is not permitted to attend school in person and must instead engage in remote learning, as long as the employee needs the leave to actually care for their child during that time and only if no other suitable person is available to do so. For purposes of the FFCRA, the child’s school is effectively “closed” on days they cannot attend in person, so employees may take leave as needed on those days.

Q. Some schools are letting parents choose between having their child attend in person or participate in a remote learning program for the fall. Some of my employees want to take the remote-only option because they are worried that children will catch COVID-19 and bring it home to the family. Can they take paid leave under the FFCRA in these circumstances?

A. No, the employee is not eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA because their child’s school is not “closed” due to COVID-19 related reasons; it is open for their child to attend. If the child’s school is physically open, but an employee has chosen for the child to remain home, they are not entitled to FFCRA leave.


If, however, the choice was between a hybrid schedule and a remote-only option, the employee would still be eligible to take paid leave on the days when the child would be doing remote-learning regardless (because the school is effectively “closed” to the child on those days). For instance, if an employee had a choice between three days in school and two days at home or a fully remote program, and chose the fully remote program, they’d still be entitled to use FFCRA leave for the two days the child would have been schooling from home.

Also, if child is under a quarantine order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-isolate or self-quarantine, the employee may be eligible to take Emergency Paid Sick Leave under the FFCRA to care for them.


Q. Can we set up childcare or tutoring in the workplace?

A.  While it may be possible (and we applaud the creativity), you’d want to consult with an attorney or someone else in your state that is familiar with the kind of licensing and insurance that would be required to do this. Even if you were only allowing children in the workplace occasionally, and they remained under the control of their parent, you’d want to check with your general liability carrier to make sure that it would cover incidents that involved a visiting child. 

Q. Can I deny leave to an employee who has high schoolers who should be able to take care of themselves during the day?

A. No. However, if the child or children are 15 or older, you should require that the employee provide a statement or affirmation that there are special circumstances that cause the older child to need their care. They do not need to provide any further information beyond that statement (such as what the special circumstances are). If you feel it necessary, you can remind all employees that it is fraudulent to take FFCRA leave if they are not unable to work as a result of the care they will be providing.

Q. Can we require proof that the school or place of care is closed?

A. No. You can and should (for IRS documentation) require the names and ages of the child or children being cared for and the name of the school, place of care, or caregiver that is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19. You should also require a signed statement that the employee is unable to work because they need to provide care for the child or children. Finally, if the child or children are 15 or older, the employee needs to indicate that there are special circumstances (but doesn’t need to explain them).


We don’t encourage independent sleuthing to verify what an employee tells you, but if you feel that’s necessary, be very careful of doing anything that could infringe on an employee’s right to privacy. Also be consistent in verifying this kind of information—if you are only fact-checking certain employees, you’ll open yourself up to complaints of unfair treatment.

Q. Can I ask an employee to look for outside childcare?

A. You can ask or encourage employees to look for other options, but you can’t require any proof that they have done so and you can’t deny leave because you think they didn’t try. In this case, all an employee needs to provide in a request for FFCRA leave is a statement that no other suitable person will be taking care of the child when they have requested leave for that purpose. Ultimately, who is “suitable” will be up to a parent.

Q. Can I deny leave if I think or know an employee is lying about the need to care for a child?

A. There is significant risk in denying a request for FFCRA leave if an employee has provided the appropriate documentation. That said, if you believe the request is fraudulent, you should have a discussion with the employee before granting or denying leave. If it turns out that they were submitting a fraudulent request—and you have sufficient evidence to support that—you can take disciplinary action if it seems appropriate. If, after discussion, you think their request is more likely than not legitimate, you should grant it.


Be careful of disciplining an employee who requests leave but doesn’t meet the necessary criteria. These leave entitlements can be confusing, and it would be unlawful retaliation to discipline an employee who was attempting to use their right to leave in good faith.   

Q. If an employee’s stay-at-home spouse is sick with COVID-19 and unable to care for their children, can they take FFCRA leave to do so?

A. Yes, the children’s regular care provider (the stay-at-home spouse) is unavailable because of COVID-19, so the employee would be able to use either EPSL or EFMLA to provide care while their spouse is not able to do so.

Q. What if an employee won’t fill out the required FFCRA documentation?

A. The earliest an employer can require notice is after the first workday of FFCRA leave. (The regulations require employees to provide notice of their need for school closure leave as soon as practicable, but there are no consequences if the employee doesn't do so.) If, after the first workday, the employee does not provide sufficient documentation to support their request for leave, they must be notified of the problem and given an opportunity to provide what is needed. If the employee still does not provide completed documentation after being given a reasonable opportunity to do so, then the employer is not required to provide FFCRA leave. 

Q. Can we terminate an employee who is unable to work because they need to care for a child but have used up their leave under the FFCRA?

A. Assuming that no other leave laws apply, termination is an option. But you may want to instead consider offering the employee an unpaid personal leave of absence or revisiting whether a flexible or part-time work schedule would be better than losing the employee entirely. Recruiting, hiring, and training are all expensive undertakings, so if there’s a way to keep an employee around—even if they need some time off—that is likely better for your bottom line.


If you do decide to terminate an employee who is out of leave, make sure you can be consistent in that response going forward. If you are flexible with some employees while firing others, you will open yourself up to claims of discrimination.   

Q. What if we find out after we’ve granted and paid for an employee’s leave that it was fraudulent? Do we make them pay us back or report them to the IRS?

A. There is not yet clear guidance about how to handle this situation, so we recommend calling your local Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. They are generally very responsive and may be able to provide some guidance based on your situation. 

Legal Disclaimer: Payroll Experts is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a license attorney. Payroll Experts cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to this receipt.

9 Work Trends That HR Leaders Can't Ignore

According to Gartner, these are the top 9 trends that will shape work this year and HR leaders are watching them closely.

Read Gartner Article

No. 1: Employers will shift from managing the employee experience to managing the life experience of their employees.

According to Gartner's 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey, employees reported better (over 20%) mental and physical health when employers supported their life experiences. Supportive employers also saw an increase in the number of high performing employees. 

No. 2: More companies will adopt a stance on societal and political issues.


2020 Gartner research shows that 74% of employees expect their employer to be more actively involved in cultural debates. They are predicting that CEOs will have to be more responsive in order to retain and attract top talent.

No. 3: The gender-wage gap will continue to increase as employees return to the workplace.

A recent survey revealed that 64% of managers believe in-office employees perform higher than remote workers. A 2019-2020 Gartner survey gathered just the opposite where full-time remote workers were 5% more likely to perform higher than full-time in-office employees. If managers continue to retain a bias toward in-office employee's and if men are more likely to work from the office, it's possible to see managers over-rewarding those employees.

No. 4: New regulations will limit employee monitoring.

A result to the pandemic has led organizations to implement new technology to passively track and monitor their workforce. Many of these companies have yet to determine how to balance employee privacy with the technology, increasing employee frustration. Gartner predicts that in 2021, new state and local regulations will begin to put limits on what employers are able to track.

No. 5: Flexibility will shift from location to time.

Gartner's 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey revealed that companies with flexibility regarding when, where and how much employees worked, had a high performing workforce of 55% in comparison to organizations with a standard 40-hour work week (36%).

No. 6: Leading companies will make bulk purchases of the COVID-19 vaccine for employees- and will be sued over COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements.

Some employers will use the COVID-19 vaccine as a differentiator to attract and retain talent. Gartner predicts that in tandem, those that make the vaccine a requirement may later be sued. 

No. 7: Mental health support will expand.

Self-care and the importance of mental health has been emphasized more than ever. Gartner predicts that employers will expand mental health benefits and introduce "collective mental health days". 

No. 8: Employers will "rent" talent to fill the skills gap.

In an effort to meet changing needs, employers are listing more skills on job requisitions. Some companies will pay a premium for those skills and others will expand their use of contingent and contract hiring.

No. 9: Jurisdictions will compete to attract talent rather than trying to get companies to relocate.

The new era of remote and hybrid work means that where an employee lives will be less tie to where their employer is located. This break in where employees live and where they work will lead states and cities to start using their tax policies to incentivize talent to relocate to their jurisdiction rather than giving tax credits to large companies to relocate.

Legal Disclaimer: Payroll Experts is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a license attorney. Payroll Experts cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to this receipt.

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