Home for the Virus Days? How to Keep Your Workers Away from the Office to Address COVID-19 ConcernsWith companies try to keep employees safe but still conduct business while the coronavirus flattens out, employers should be mindful of their obligations to employees while working off-site.

Non-exempt Hourly Employees

Even if working remotely, pay non-exempt employees for all time worked. If your hourly employees are answering emails or calls, they need to record that time and you need to pay them for it. If you are requiring them to be available (so you have restricted their time), they need to be paid for that time. Employers should be vigilant in requiring accurate reporting of time even though their workers won’t be at the facility punching a clock.

If hourly employees choose to use PTO, be consistent in how you apply your policy. If you decide to allow for sick leave bank sharing or other additional paid leave during a virus shutdown, make sure all similarly situated employees are treated the same.

Salaried Employees (Exempt and Non-exempt)

Remember that you cannot deduct pay from an exempt employee’s weekly salary if they perform any work during that week. If they work even an hour, they are entitled to their full weekly salary. If you have non-exempt, salaried employees, your obligations for overtime still apply even if they are working remotely.

Employees with Contracts

If you have a collective bargaining agreement, make sure you consider those obligations when you are making these decisions. Watch out for any employees who have unique employment contracts. They may be entitled to pay regardless of having to work from home. Re-read their contracts, and make sure you both are on the same page.

Extra Shifts 

If you have employees pulling extra shifts due to absences from other workers, keep an eye on your overtime. Also be sure they are accurately recording their time and not just “helping out” off the clock. While bonuses for those extra shifts are not required, gift cards or a pizza party will always be appreciated.

Watch the News

Keep up with any updates or restrictions from the CDC. Your best ally against rumors and suspicion is accurate information.

Child Care

If schools and day cares close, some employees may ask for assistance with child care.  There is no federally mandated obligation for an employer to provide separate child care.  Day cares are highly regulated entities, so an employer can’t just hire some babysitters and open a temporary day care in the basement. Even a temporary stipend to assist with the cost of child care may not solve the problem since most day cares close when schools shut down anyway. The best advice is to have an open and honest dialogue with your employees about these types of collateral issues and work toward a consistent approach that applies to everyone.