Wi16 Education: New Labor Laws and Best Practices in the Time of COVID

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On Saturday, February 20, Pinnacle Human Resources President Rose Miller and Senior HR Consultant John Kelly highlighted best practices for managing staff in the age of COVID at the 2021 Virtual Winter Institute. Miller and Kelly offered a practical approach and best practices for administering federal and state leave-of-absence laws (with or without the presence of COVID); insight around vaccine hesitancy and availability; and an overview of the importance of updating your policies and procedures.

Booksellers can view a recording of this session, along with educational materials, on the Education Resources section on BookWeb.org.

Here are some of the key points from the session:

  • There are a number of laws that impact all employers; each one depends on the employer’s size.
  • Non-COVID-19 specific laws include: the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (for companies of 50 employees or more); State Paid Family Leave; State or Local Sick and Safe Leave; and the Americans with Disabilities Act/Division of Human Rights Law (for companies of 15 employees or more, but some states might have a lower threshold).
  • COVID-19-specific laws include: Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) (all employees had to offer this in 2020, employers can elect to offer this in 2021), which includes emergency paid sick leave and the Emergency Medical Leave Act, and State COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave, which includes paid family/disability leave.
  • If employers elect to continue FFCRA in 2021, they should be sure to communicate this clearly with employees. Booksellers can take a look at who qualifies for this information here, and can find more information about COVID-related tax credits here. Additionally, Miller outlines qualifying conditions at 7:43 in the recording. Booksellers should note that tax credits for leave are set to expire on March 31, 2021.
  • Employers in a state that has its own COVID-related leave must match that leave with FFCRA. In 2020, if FFCRA was more generous than their state leave, employers would have had to elect FFCRA. This year, employers can choose between the more generous of the two.
  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has allowed employers the option to require the COVID-19 vaccination of employees. Exemptions for health concerns and religious reasons apply.
  • Each time leave laws are enacted, employers must update their handbook to ensure their employees have access to necessary information. Miller recommended adding a “pandemic supplement” with dedicated information.
  • Miller urged employers, especially those of small to medium-sized businesses, to have a qualified, knowledgeable point person who handles all of the different types of leave. Employers must also educate their HR team and managers, as these will be the employees mostly likely to field questions about leave laws and regulations. Educating the payroll department is also important. Taking these steps, in addition to communicating effectively with employees, can mitigate the risk of being sued.
  • Develop documented systems to record the various leave times for all employees, and be sure to track how much leave is left over for each employee. Additionally, create an administrative process to streamline how employees can request leave.
  • Mitigate risk by maintaining confidentiality of personal health information. There are regulations regarding where confidential information is stored; it’s the employer’s responsibility to comply with those regulations.
  • Employers should also seek clarification on eligibility requirements for certain types of leave, the process for ADA requests, and clarification on when employees can return to work.
  • Miller also recommended employers seek legal guidance specialized in ADA compliance if they have questions.

Pinnacle HR offers ABA bookstore members a scalable and flexible approach to the type of HR support needed. Members will have access to a certified human resources professional who will provide assistance with development or updates to employee handbooks, wage benchmarking data, HR forms, training programs, and advice and opinion on various HR-related problems.

To get started with Pinnacle HR, contact Senior HR Consultant John Kelly at (845) 464-6123. More information can be found here.