COVID-19 > Work from Home and Other Employment Arrangements
- In the event employees will have to work from home, how can we ensure that they are being productive?
If you typically allow work from home, you may already have policies that address this topic. If not, employers can generally monitor the use of work email if there is a valid business purpose to do so. You might schedule conference calls to provide updates and/or ask the employee to send supervisors a periodic email with progress reports or other reporting that summarizes the work they completed along with the targeted deadlines for the period.
- What should we do if an employee is unable to work from home because…?
- the employee is too sick to perform the required duties from home
If the employee is too sick to work, allow the employee time to rest and recover. If they have PTO, allow them to use it.
- the employee does not have the appropriate equipment needed (hardware, software, internet service, etc.)
If the employee is not equipped to work from home and you have closed your office, then the employee is not able to work until you reopen your office. You are only required to pay nonexempt, hourly employees for the time when they are preforming work. If they have PTO, allow them to use it.
- a position, such as a receptionist, requires the employee to be physically present in the workplace
Certain positions require that the employee be present in the office and cannot be performed remotely. You are only required to pay nonexempt, hourly employees for the time when they are performing work.
- If there is not enough work for all of my employees, can I send them home?
Yes. There are several options to consider.
For industries that can't tell employees to work from home, such as manufacturing, retail, and hospitality, you could reduce the hours worked and possibly use staggered shifts.
You could also choose to either lay off some or all employees, temporarily or permanently, or to furlough them.
An employee furlough is a mandatory suspension from work typically without pay. It can be as brief or as long as the employer wants.
An employer will furlough employees as a cost-saving measure when it doesn't want to lay off staff but lacks the resources to continue paying them.
You can also furlough on a partial week basis. For instance, you could furlough one day per week so that the employee is only working and getting paid for four days per week. An advantage to this for exempt employees is that you are not technically changing the rate of pay.
During the furlough, the employee retains his or her job which means that he or she also retains benefits. After the furlough ends, the employee returns to work.
Be clear, think through all the possibilities, and be as transparent as possible with your employees. If you want them to return to work, it’s important that they believe that this short-term solution will ensure a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. They will need to believe that you are making a good decision and taking the best care of them possible, while ensuring business continuation for the organization.
- If I do send employees home or close the office, must we keep paying employees who are not working?
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), for the most part the answer is “no.” FLSA minimum-wage and overtime requirements attach to hours worked in a workweek, so employees who are not working are typically not entitled to the wages the FLSA requires. (See Nonexempt and Exempt descriptions above).
However, an employer may choose to continue paying employees on some basis at or less than their full rate of pay.
Additionally, you can create an expanded Paid Time Off (PTO) option that could be designed specifically for this situation. This would be in addition to the FFCRA paid leave and your current PTO plan. For this option, an additional week, 2 weeks or more could be added on top of the normal PTO that is in your handbook.
For hourly, nonexempt employees, you could also pay them their hourly pay rate for a set number of hours per week not to work. Keep in mind that they are entitled to be paid for any hours they do work if it exceeds the number of hours you agree to pay on a temporary basis.
For exempt, salaried employees, federal regulations require employers to pay their full weekly salary in any workweek in which they perform some work. If they are being temporarily furloughed so that no work will be performed, the same or a reduced pay could be offered.
- Can we move employees from salary to hourly and reduce hours?
Yes, that is perfectly legal. We recommend doing it in writing and having your employees sign it, similar to a pay change form.