The Coronavirus pandemic has created new, urgent challenges for employers. Below, we’ve documented some of the current leave of absence practices that our clients are using to help manage during this pandemic, as well as an FAQ based on our work with our clients.
FAQ: How Employers Are Managing During The Coronavirus Epidemic
Common responses from employers:
- Actively monitoring WHO, CDC, International SOS, and industry associations (e.g., SIFMA, Global Risk Network, LIMRA)
- Expanding use of remote access technology, in the event social distancing is required, and to reduce possible exposure
- Expanding the availability of “work-from-home” options to more employees, and increasing the percentage of time that employees are permitted to work from home
- Making hand sanitizing available for all employees
- Establishing baseline absenteeism rates for your organization, to enable monitoring
- Communicating with employees regularly about actions taken
- General Information: Current Practices
How are your clients adapting their workplace schedules or routines to reduce their employees’ risk of exposure?
The majority of our clients are expanding work from home options. We have heard of a couple of other adaptations being implemented, including limiting onsite and offsite meetings. Some clients are also moving to rotating Early Shift/Late Shift schedules, to allow more employees to work from home at any given time while still maintaining a functioning presence at their offices. Many clients are also limiting international and/or domestic travel at this time.
How are you advising ReedGroup clients to manage pay, policy and job protection?
In terms of leave eligibility, we’ve advised ReedGroup clients to manage claims as they normally would under their plans. For example, if an employee does not meet the requirements for FMLA or STD, even if quarantined, they would not be entitled to leave under these programs. However, the employer may consider providing that employee with PTO for the quarantined period or allow them to work from home if possible. We are deferring to our clients’ directives as to how they would like these claims managed; large employers can have very different operational needs.
Have any of your clients added/implemented a new company policy for employees who may be quarantined due to Coronavirus?
We have not seen any company policy additions. However, we are seeing clients leverage existing plans and policies in different ways (e.g. allowing unpaid leave and personal leaves.)
What are your solutions to make the process easier for an employee who has been exposed to or contracted Coronavirus?
We recommend foregoing paperwork or certification documents and more flexibility regarding eligibility requirements for the client’s paid leave programs. This decision at each employer’s discretion.
One of my employees traveled to China and is returning/has returned. He/she has a doctor appointment. Should I advise them to work from home?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of locations with confirmed cases throughout the world. We recommend following the CDC issued protocols.
If my employee is on the CDC watch list, can they be in the workplace?
If they are on the CDC watch list, they are under mandatory quarantine.
What if an employee wants to take a leave because their child’s school has been closed and they need to take care of their child?
Since the leave time is unrelated to the child’s illness, your employee may not be entitled to statutory or company leave program. However, your company may offer personal leave time to cover the time period of the child’s school closing. Some of our clients are offering employees personal leaves in the event of school closures.
If an employee is trying to return to work after being quarantined, what is the required documentation for them to return to work?
A physician’s clearance may be required for an employee to return to work; however, it will depend on the type of leave that they utilized. This will vary, depending on what your company authorized.
If an employee is quarantined, and their employer determines they should be on paid leave, how long would you recommend that the employer pay their employee?
Per CDC guidelines, the quarantine period is 14 days, which would be an appropriate period of time to cover the employee if the client choses to do so.
An employee’s family member is on the CDC watchlist, can the employee be in the workplace?
Per the CDC guidelines, if the family member lives in the same home, your employee cannot enter the workplace. They can, however, be permitted to work from home if that’s appropriate for their job function.
We have a confirmed case of Coronavirus. What now?
If it is a confirmed case, the employee may be entitled to leave under a statutory or company leave program, such as short-term disability leave, for example.
As there is a known period of time where someone needs to be quarantined, what do you recommend for substantiation or relaxing the need for medical documentation?
We have been deferring to our clients regarding the amount of flexibility they would like to extend to quarantined employees.
If an employee wants to take a leave because a family member is quarantined, and they need to take care of him/her, what leave are they entitled to?
If the family member is not ill, the employee may not be entitled to any statutory or company leave programs. However, your company could offer personal leave time to cover the quarantine period. If the family member is subsequently diagnosed with the virus, your employee may be entitled to either a statutory or company
An employee wants to take a leave because they have been quarantined. Are they eligible for a leave?
Unless the employee is ill, they are likely not entitled to any statutory or company leave programs. However, your company may choose to offer personal leave time.
Are you seeing any increase in mental health claims related to fear/anxiety specifically around Coronavirus?
To date, we have not seen any increase in mental health claims related to Coronavirus.
An employee wants to take a leave of absence because they are afraid, they will get infected at work.
Unless the employee is ill, they are likely not entitled to any statutory leave, but they might be eligible for other company leave programs.
Have any states or municipalities enhanced leave policies similar to what California did in expanding paid family leave in response to the coronavirus pandemic?
Yes, several states have provided update guidance or enhanced leave policies. On the right-hand side of this page, you’ll find a running list…we are adding new links frequently as we learn of new legislation.
How are global companies handling school closures? Are they paying individuals who can’t work from home?
We are seeing various applied methods including paid leave for a certain period of time, the use of personal leave, and utilization of paid time off. One example: authorizing a paid, “excused” absence for 14 days.
What if an employee has been asked not to report to work due to possible exposure to coronavirus, but the Emergency Room refused to test them?
If an employee is asked not to report to work, and is unable to substantiate that they have a serious health condition, the employee should follow the normal expected path for leave of absence requests in order to determine what, if any, applicable leave types they may be eligible for based on their situation.
What does ReedGroup recommend when an employee has a contributing factor that makes them high risk for coronavirus, but is not currently unable to work?
Our primary recommendation:allow the employee to work from home where able. In instances where the employee is unable to perform the functions of their job in a work from home environment, we recommend employers look to existing leave policies and procedures up to and including leave as an accommodation.
Can you please tell me how Reed will be preparing and administering the new amended FMLA protections for coronavirus?
We are following the progress of the relevant Federal legislation closely, and will provide guidance via this FAQ once a law passes.
I have an employee is immunocompromised who has requested a leave of absence,given their health condition. What should we do?
Follow your normal leave process. If the absence is supported medically, then it may qualify as a serious health condition. If it’s not a serious health condition, the option would be an alternate leave plan (company sponsored or statutory leave).
We’ll update this page with additional information and resources as they become available.
- 03.25.2020: 10 Things Employers Need to Know
- 03.19.2020: Coronavirus Takes Center Stage
State and Federal Guidelines and Resources Related to Work & Coronavirus
- Federal – EEOC Guidance
- Federal – DOL Guidance
- California: CA Information
- Indiana: IN Information
- Minnesota: MN Information
- Montana: MT Information
- New Jersey: NJ Information
- New York:
- Rhode Island: RI Information
- Washington D.C.