5 minute read. Last updated April 2, 2020
U.S. healthcare professionals are demonstrating once again that they are true heroes.
Well-designed technology is important in all aspects of healthcare from patient care to research to administration.
Let’s look at the importance of mobile healthcare workforce management solutions.
Healthcare organizations should use a Human Resources Management System (HRMS) with mobile tools:
- Lower administrative costs
- Improve patient care
- Increase employee satisfaction
- Track hours for EPSLA tax credits and small business coronavirus relief
Why Workforce Management is Critical: A Summary of 4 Key Findings
1. Unemployment in the healthcare sector was 2.1% December 2019. Last month, there were 1,117,000 job openings in the healthcare industry. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
2. Healthcare is the fastest growing industry: employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 14% from 2018 to 2028, adding about 1.9 million new jobs. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
3. The DOL continues to penalize home care agencies for minimum wage and overtime pay violations. A Virginia-based home health business, for example, agreed to pay $1.2 million for failing to pay overtime to workers from 2015-2017. (Home Health Care News)
4. Registered nurses, the occupation with the third highest job growth from 2018-2028, are projected to grow from 3,059,800 to 3,431,300, an increase of 371,500 new jobs. (AMN Healthcare)
What California’s AB 5 Means for Home Health Companies
AB 5 took effect January 1, 2020. Under the law, all workers are defined as “employees” in California.
AB 5’s three part test, called the ABC Test, uses these standards. All must be applicable to classify a worker as an independent contractor. (At Home Nursing Care)
The worker must be:
- Free from the control and direction of the hiring entity,
- Performing work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business,
- The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business.
What’s New In Mobile Workforce Management?
If you own a home healthcare business and have not explored the latest HRMS mobile tools, keep reading. New mobile time clocks ensure timekeeping accuracy wherever your employees are throughout the day or night.
Geofencing restricts out of area punches. Schedule enforcement restricts out-of-schedule punches.
Your supervisors will appreciate how easy it is to see what’s going on with everyone in their department. They can be set up quickly and are surprisingly affordable.
Mobile Tools for Home Health Aides
When your workers are mobile, ordinary employee timekeeping and scheduling tasks are more complex. It’s hard enough to track rotating nurse schedules in a busy LTC facility. When employees are spread across town, you need convenient mobile apps.
A home healthcare worker wakes up and hits the ground running. They check their patient roster and medication chart. “Do I have the necessary supplies for Mrs. Parker’s post-surgical needs?” “Is Mr. Jones still on the route, or was he transferred to residential care?”
They may battle commuter traffic to get to their first appointment. When the aide arrives, he or she helps the patient get bathed and dressed, which often requires heavy lifting. The caregiver then takes the patient’s blood pressure and other vital signs, administers meds, makes breakfast, and does some housekeeping.
A Difficult Job Requires an Easy Mobile App
Keep in mind that many patients are dealing with chronic pain, restricted mobility, and the limitations of aging, so it’s understandable that they are not always happy campers. (Who can blame them?) Working as a home health aide can be rewarding. But it’s definitely not easy to care for people with physical, mental, and emotional challenges.
The last thing a mobile worker needs to deal with is difficulty logging work hours, uncertainty about scheduling, or time card hassles. Burnout due to excessive overtime is common in the industry and, like many healthcare employees who work long hours; they live for their vacations. (“I better not get shorted on my PTO!”)
GPS Tracking is a Supervisor’s Best Friend
Being a supervisor is not a walk in the park, either. What if an aide wakes up with the flu when two others are on vacation? The sick one certainly can’t risk transmitting their illness to a patient whose immune system is already compromised. How can the supervisor quickly find a replacement so that all patients are visited on schedule?
HRMS scheduling tools help you manage large teams efficiently. Patients receive the care they deserve. Effective management is also key for controlling labor expenses.
Scheduling Mobile Workers
If you are responsible for scheduling, you know it can be pretty tricky. You have to take into account, oh, maybe a hundred variables. (I may be exaggerating, but it seems like it.) When creating schedules, you have to keep track of your employee’s certifications, patient visit durations, adequate shift coverage, patient status, travel time, and route details.
Scheduling impacts patient outcomes, profitability, employee satisfaction, and compliance.
- Mobile time clock apps capture hours and automatically tracks accruals
- Mobile employees can punch in from their smartphone or the tablet they are already using to record patient data
- GPS tracking records location of clock in/out
- Geofencing restricts out-of-area punches
- Aides can check schedules, request shift trades, receive automatic schedule updates and company announcements, approve time cards, and monitor accruals from any mobile device, any time of day
- Supervisors have real-time, location-specific oversight with pinpoint GPS
- Supervisors can create schedules in minutes using job codes, patient and employee locations, and hours thresholds to ensure efficiency and compliance
This user sums it up succinctly:
“By far, the biggest benefit of using TimeWorksPlus and TimeSimplicity is having visibility to ensure we have the right people, in the right places, at the right times to provide the best care possible.”
Breathe Easier Knowing You Are Protected
The healthcare industry has been under increased FLSA scrutiny in the past few years. Wise owners review their policies regularly
Pay special attention to minimum wage laws, employee classification, proper payment of overtime, Payroll Based Journal (for LTC), and ACA employee hours regulations. You may also live in a state that has added new Family Leave or predictive scheduling laws.
Did you know that employees can download a free time tracking app from the DOL website and log time? If an employee thinks they are being treated unfairly, he or she can request a DOL investigation.
Would your time and attendance records stand up to an audit?
Updated April 3, 2020.
What programs in the coronavirus relief bills help small businesses?
The federal government has passed three multi-trillion-dollar relief bills. The first bill, The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act was passed March 6, 2020. It provides $8.3 billion in funding for federal agencies to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In this article, we focus on two small business relief programs. They are part of the second and third bills:
- The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA): tax credits for providing mandatory coronavirus-related paid sick leave. This Act is part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the 2nd big bill which was passed on March 18, 2020)
- Paycheck Protection Program: A small business loan that can be forgiven if certain conditions are met. This program is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (the 3rd big bill that was passed March 27, 2020)
When does the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act become effective?
April 1, 2020: the programs apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
What are most important things for small businesses to do right now to qualify for coronavirus relief?
- Track employee hours for at-home, onsite, and mobile employees
- Don’t cut wages, furlough employees, or lay off employees before you learn what you can qualify for
Is my business eligible for a Paycheck Protection Loan?
Your business is eligible if you:
- Have fewer than 500 employees
- Part-time, full-time, temp, and independent contractors count as employees
- Are a single-member LLC, corporation, 501(c)(3), sole proprietor, Veteran organization, or Tribal business
If you maintain your workforce, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will potentially forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first 8 weeks of payroll and certain other expenses following loan origination. (SBA)
Is qualifying for a Paycheck Protection Loan the same as qualifying for a regular SBA loan?
It is easier to qualify for a Paycheck Protection Loan
Employers receive 100% reimbursement
- Health insurance costs are also included in the credit
- Employers face no payroll tax liability
- Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit (Internal Revenue Service)
The [Paycheck Protection] law allows businesses to take out loans equal to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll from 2019, so you need to know what that payroll number is. It should include salary and wages, of course, but also health care benefits and paid sick leave.Neil Bradley, EVP US Chamber of Commerce – Explanation of March 27th, 2020 Stimulus Bill in Inc Q&A)
What should small business owners do right now to determine if they qualify for a Paycheck Protection Loan?
- Look at your payroll to see if you kept the employees you had
- If you reduced headcount, there will be a reduction in loan forgiveness available
- If you’ve cut wages by 25%, that dollar value will affect the loan forgiveness as well (Neil Bradley, EVP US Chamber of Commerce – Explanation of March 27th, 2020 Stimulus Bill in Inc Q&A)
Can I qualify for a Paycheck Protection Loan if I have already let employees go?
Yes. If you bring them back on your payroll. (Neil Bradley, EVP US Chamber of Commerce – Explanation of March 27th, 2020 Stimulus Bill in Inc Q&A)
How to convert loans into grants (forgiveness)
They will look at your expenses for the eight weeks AFTER the origination of the loan. Every dollar that is spent on the following will count:
- Interest on mortgage debt
This will be dollar for dollar based upon those expenditures for loan forgiveness, in other words, 100% of the loan can be forgiven. Neil Bradley, EVP US Chamber of Commerce – Explanation of March 27th, 2020 Stimulus Bill in Inc Q&A)
Can I qualify for the Emergency Paid Sick Leave tax credit if I have employees outside the U.S.?
The 500-employee requirement applies to only employees in any state of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any U.S. territory. Therefore, if you have over 500 employees in total, but less than 500 in the U.S. (including territories and Washington D.C.), the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act applies to your business. You are required to pay for coronavirus-related sick leave (as defined under the Act) and are able to qualify for tax credits.
How do I calculate hours worked by a part-time employee for purposes of COVID-related paid sick leave or expanded FMLA?
A part-time employee is entitled to leave for his or her average number of work hours in a two-week period. Therefore, calculate hours of leave based on the number of hours the employee is normally scheduled to work.
How do I calculate required paid sick leave if my part-time employee’s schedule varies from week to week?
Use a six month average. If the employee’s number of normal hours scheduled has not yet been determined, or if the employee’s schedule fluctuates from week to week, you may use a six-month average to calculate the average daily hours. Such a part-time employee may take paid sick leave for this number of hours per day for up to a two-week period, and may take expanded family and medical leave for the same number of hours per day up to ten weeks after that.
What if the employee hasn’t been employed for six months?
Use the number of hours agreed upon when hired. If the six month average cannot be tallied because the employee has not been employed for at least six months, use the number of hours that you and your employee agreed to when hired. And if there is no such agreement, you may calculate the appropriate number of hours of leave based on the average hours per day the employee was scheduled to work over the entire term of his or her employment. (Department of Labor)
When calculating Emergency Paid Sick Leave pay, am I supposed to count overtime?
Yes. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act requires qualifying employers to pay workers for hours they would have been normally scheduled to work even if that is more than 40 hours/week.
However, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires that paid sick leave be paid only up to 80 hours over a two-week period. For example, an employee who is scheduled to work 50 hours a week may take 50 hours of paid sick leave in the first week and 30 hours of paid sick leave in the second week. In any event, the total number of hours paid under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is capped at 80.
Does the Emergency Paid Sick Leave apply to employee leave taken in March?
No. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave is effective April 1, 2020.
What records do I need to keep for COVID19-related employee sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?
Private sector employers that provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave required by the FFCRA are eligible for reimbursement of the costs of that leave through refundable tax credits. If you intend to claim a tax credit under coronavirus relief bill (or any other program) for your payment of the sick leave or expanded family and medical leave wages, you should retain appropriate documentation in your records.
What is the easiest way to track employee hours, PTO accruals, and overtime?
Employee time tracking systems create online timecards as employees log their hours with an online web clock.
Where do I get the forms to apply for the tax credit?
The Department of Labor directs employers to contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for forms, instructions, and information for the procedures that must be followed to claim a tax credit, including any needed substantiation to be retained to support the credit. (Department of Labor)
What is the best way to verify employee hours to apply for a tax credit for Emergency Paid Sick Leave or a Paycheck Protection loan?
Employers need to track employee time accurately wherever they are working. Intelligent employee web clocks allow employees to punch in and out for shifts from any remote location using a laptop or smartphone. Intelligent clocking filters punch options based on current state to reduce errors and improve accuracy. Intelligent web clock is an easy and accurate way to record remote employee time.
What if an employee has already taken FMLA leave? Are they eligible for emergency paid leave?
Yes, if you are a covered employer, an employee can take sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act in the coronavirus relief bill.
How is a full-time employee defined under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act?
For purposes of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, a full-time employee is an employee who is normally scheduled to work 40 or more hours per week.
What is a part-time employee under the EPSLA?
In the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, a part-time employee is defined as one who is normally scheduled to work fewer than 40 hours per week.
How long can an employer claim coronavirus relief tax credits?
Eligible employers will be able to claim these credits based on qualifying leave they provide between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
If I provided paid leave before April 1, 2020, can I claim a tax credit under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act?
The Department of Labor clarified that emergency paid leave is not retroactive, so no tax credit can be claimed to leave provided to employees prior to April 1, 2020.
If I have under 50 employees, am I automatically exempt for the EPSLA requirements?
No. The FFCRA gives the DOL the authority to exempt businesses if the requirements under the EPSLA or the EFMLEA would threaten the viability of the business.
If I have under 50 employees, how do I get an exemption from the DOL?
As of this writing, the DOL has not provided explicit instructions. We will update this article when the information becomes available. However, it’s always critical to document revenue, employee timecards, and PTO policies.
Can employees substitute accrued PTO or sick leave for the initial ten days of unpaid leave under the EFMLEA?
Where can I find more information about tracking employee time, qualifying for tax credits or a Paycheck Protection Loan, or managing remote employees?
How do I pay quarantined workers? Absence management for COVID-19.
How To Manage PTO For Remote Workers
Professional Services/Tech: Use Geofencing to Track Remote Employees During Covid-19 Pandemic
What Are The Best Guidelines For Creating A PTO Policy For Your Business?
How to Buy Employee Time Clocks For Small Business in 2020: The All-Encompassing Guide
If you are an HR director, it’s boom or bust right now when it comes to talent management. Essential businesses are in a hiring frenzy. Others, regrettably, are laying off or furloughing workers.
We hope you are in the former category.
But how do you compete for talent with Walmart, Amazon, Fed-Ex and CVS?
Let’s look at 3 ways creative HR directors are hiring during the COVID-19 crisis.
3 Ways to Hire During the Coronavirus Chaos
1. Partner With Your Customers and Vendors
Are you a talent acquisition specialist for a B2B company? Have any of your customers or vendors recently let employees go? There’s no reason you can’t follow the lead of CVS and source partners’ recently laid off employees. If you are a professional services company, you may have relationships with hundreds of organizations.
CVS is embarking on one of the most ambitious hiring drives in its history with plans to hire 50,000 full-time, part-time and temporary workers—and it has decided to tap directly into its customers’ workforces by taking on furloughed workers from the Marriott and Hilton hotel chains. The drugstore chain said it would use a “technology-enabled hiring process that includes virtual job fairs, virtual interviews and virtual job tryouts.” Market Watch
Most SMBs don’t have the resources of CVS but you can use the same techniques on a smaller scale. Talk to colleagues who have business relationships with your partners’ or customers’ recently laid off employees. These may include account managers, event planners, buyers, and supply chain managers.
These potential employees have already been vetted by companies you know and trust. They probably have a favorable view of your company. Passive recruiting is a lot easier when you are trying to source talent that is currently unemployed!
2. Host Virtual Job Fairs
Create an event using chat rooms, video conferencing, company videos, and webinars. Assign each hiring manager a presentation. Enlist your best brand ambassadors (current employees who love your company) to engage with job seekers.
A virtual job or career fair is perfect for attracting both onsite and remote workers. For telecommuting positions, you aren’t limited to job seekers in a geographic radius.
If you are looking for employees in your community, you can tailor the event to a specific demographic. If a local employer just cut workers, be straightforward about targeting their former workforce.
Who do you invite?
Use your applicant tracking system (ATS) to search for resume keywords in your talent database. Chances are, some of these people have recently been laid off. Create a job fair email template in your ATS and email an invitation to qualified candidates in your pipeline. Include a link to your registration page.
Request employee referrals. Each of your employees probably know several people out of work right now. Don’t forget to advertise on your social media sites. Ask your vendors and business partners for referrals. Talk to career counselors at schools in your community. Make the sign-up process fast and easy.
Virtual job fairs speed up hiring
For the recruiter, these events [virtual job fairs] compress the time to first engagement and ultimately the time to hire. Candidates are given the opportunity to engage with an actual recruiter from the company they are interested in on a specific day and time. That’s something you normally don’t have that early in the process. (SHRM)
3. Offer Flexible Schedules
Schools are closed. People are caring for sick family members. Workers need flexible schedules as much as they need steady jobs.
There’s never been a better time to offer flexible and non-traditional schedules—for both onsite, mobile and at-home employees.
Flexible schedules allow smaller companies to compete
Flexible schedules aren’t just an attractive perk for job seekers. They help SMBs be more competitive in multiple ways.
- Flexible scheduling reduces labor costs
- Reduced absenteeism increases productivity
- Engaged employees drive business growth
- Improved work/life balance helps retain experienced employees
What’s the easiest way to provide flexible work schedules? Cloud-based employee scheduling software is your answer for flex scheduling.
Employee scheduling software lets you create standard schedules in seconds—and flexible schedules in minutes. You create templates for each department, team, or location. You can also create templates for specific shifts or seasons. When the base schedules are in place, it’s easy to drag and drop employees into shifts.
Flexible schedules reduce healthcare employee burnout
Employee burnout is an issue for many industries, especially healthcare. And especially now. When employees have more control of their shifts, they are less likely to suffer psychological stress. Workers with improved mental health are more effective and make fewer mistakes. There’s never been a greater demand for experienced healthcare employees. If you don’t offer flexible schedules, your workforce can easily find positions at competing healthcare employers.
A Refresher Course on Best Practices for Hiring
1. Use an Applicant Tracking System
An applicant tracking system (ATS) allows you to reach far more candidates and track them through the hiring process with smart automation.
The software manages postings in multiple venues, receives and filters applications, parses resumes, and store applications for future openings. Since preliminary screening is automated, it narrows down applicants to a small pool of promising candidates. An ATS is a smart investment for any small business owner who is serious about competing in today’s job market.
An applicant tracking system doesn’t just make your life easier. It is an important tool for attracting top talent and onboarding them when they are hired.
Did you know that desirable candidates will probably find a job within two weeks? If your application system takes weeks, you are losing quality employees to companies with modern, efficient systems. Job seekers have plenty of options. The best applicants will move on if your recruiting system is antiquated.
2. Rethink Educational Requirements
Many employers have discovered that real-world experience can be more valuable than a degree. In a tight job market, you can’t always get college grads. Consider candidates with tech certifications and applicable work history.
3. Fine Tune Job Descriptions
Enlist your managers and employees to write accurate, detailed job descriptions. These don’t need to sound like they were written by a professional headhunter.
Include the salary range. Many applicants don’t waste their time applying when they don’t know what the job pays. Save yourself time by weeding out candidates who are looking for a higher salary.
When creating job descriptions, lessen the emphasis on qualifications the candidate must possess. Consider what your company can do for the employee. Candidates who respond to a benefits-first approach are often the most ambitious and competent.
You can create, store, and update job descriptions with recruiting software. Centralized access makes it easy for teams to collaborate.
4. Shorten Your Applications
Only the most desperate candidates will struggle through a lengthy application. Carefully-designed applications contain only the essentials. Recruiting software has templates to get you started.
5. Define Your Hiring Criteria
Answer the following questions: 1. Who must sign off on the hire? 2. What specific qualifications are necessary? 3. What is the deadline for making a decision?
6. Treat Applicants Like Customers
We’ve all had bad experiences job hunting. These include automated “we received your resume” emails (or worse) no notification that the company even got your application.
Be clear about the timeline. Keep candidates informed during the entire process. Your hiring methods reflect on your company. Respect your applicants as if they were your customers.
7. Formalize Your Interview Process
Create an interview script and make sure managers follow it. Ensure that it meets anti-discrimination requirements. Workforce management recruiting software helps you create and manage interview scripts. Update the questions as job roles evolve.
Good interviewers don’t dominate the conversation. They let the candidate do most of the talking. Pay close attention to the questions the candidate asks. They will yield valuable insight into the job seeker’s priorities and personality.
8. Monitor Employee Reviews
Have you read the online reviews from current and former employees? Smart employers take them seriously and make changes when necessary. Evaluations by actual employees carry far more weight than your website. Good job candidates do their research. Negative reviews hurt your hiring chances. You can’t remove reviews on most sites, but you can respond to them and describe steps you’ve taken to address the complaints.
The professional services/tech industry is fortunate that many of the jobs can be done at home. Now that employers have expanded telecommuting due to COVID-19, they need a good way to track virtual teams. There is a misconception among some that you only need to track hourly workers. This is simply not true. It’s even more important to track all employee hours during the coronavirus regardless of how employees are paid.
Professional services/tech/legal/scientific companies need to track time and attendance for ALL employees—hourly and salaried.
7 reasons you need to track time for all employees:
- Make sure you pay employees accurately (the last thing they need is a problem with their paycheck)
- FMLA/FLSA compliance
- To maintain employee hours records for any coronavirus government employer relief programs
- To maximize your labor budget
- Accurate PTO calculations
- Establish accountability (for everyone)
- Help managers keep projects on schedule
Time and Attendance Systems for Remote Workers
Mobile time and attendance apps help you track team members wherever they are working. Employees use a smartphone or tablet to clock in from any location. The app is synced with (or a part of) the time and attendance system.
Tech/legal/prof services/scientific companies use mobile time tracking apps for employees at home and employees who move around during the day.
Don’t Get a Time Tracking System Without Geofencing
Trying to choose a time tracking system for the coronavirus? Consider geofencing capability. Don’t go half-way. If you have at home employees, there is no reason to use a system without geofencing.
Geofencing Provides Ultimate Oversight During COVID-19
If you need to know if employees clock in and out at the right location, geofencing is the best way to do that.
Before we proceed, let’s back up a little.
What is Geofencing?
Geofencing is a tracking capability used in concert with a pre-set virtual boundary. The virtual boundary is called a geofence. It is based on an actual physical location.
The Location Triggers an Action
Identifying a virtual boundary is the first component. The second piece is the action that occurs. For example, a monitoring app can send a text to a parent when their child arrives home. A marketing app can text a coupon when you approach a business location.
How Does the App Track Location?
Geofencing requires GPS, RFID (radio-frequency identification), Wi-Fi or cellular data to track the location of a mobile device or RFID tag.
How Do You Use Geofencing For Employee Time Tracking?
In the employee time tracking app, draw a geofence around a site on a map. Most apps let you identify multiple geofences. Assign employees to designated areas.
The app tracks their location relative to the geofence.
9 Benefits of Geofencing for Mobile Employee Time Tracking
- Identify employees who clock in or out beyond their authorized location
- Receive a notification in real time if a punch occurs outside the fence
- Generate reports of punch times and locations for a specific employee or group
- Track employee hours for accurate payroll
- Retain employee time cards for FLSA, FMLA, coronavirus relief recordkeeping
- Enforce time and attendance policies
- Ensure employees know they are at the correct location
- Track employee hours per project or job location
- Track employee mileage for company reimbursement
Do You Have a Problem With Time Theft?
Employees can’t clock in when they aren’t in their authorized work location. For additional time theft prevention, pair geofencing with schedule enforcement. Schedule enforcement restricts early or late punches. You will have two safeguards; 1. Geofencing restricts out-of-bounds punches. 2. Schedule enforcement restricts out-of-schedule punches.
Allow Managers to Manage
Managers are more effective when they don’t have to monitor offsite employees. During the coronavirus, all of us have full plates with family and work responsibilities. The system sends an alert if an employee punches in outside of the geofence. Managers can focus only on problem punches, not the in-bounds punches. Managing by exception saves time and improves efficiency.
Manage Fluctuating Daily Service Schedules
Do your mobile employees serve clients directly? Geofencing helps you manage fluctuating daily service schedules. If an employee gets stuck in traffic, you can see where they are. They don’t have to call you from the road, risking safety and tying up a phone line. Know immediately if you have to modify the appointment schedule.
How to Implement Geofencing for Tracking Remote Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If you are planning to use geofencing during the coronavirus, here are issues to address before the rollout.
1. Inform Employees
Inform employees that you are introducing geofencing. If you don’t tell them and they find out later, they will feel like they are being spied on. Don’t erode their trust. Especially when they are worried about the COVID-19 pandemic. Explain all the benefits discussed previously. You don’t want them to have the misperception that it will only be used to reprimand late or absent employees.
2. Review Mobile Device Policies/Cell Phone Plan
A geofencing app may use mobile data and can affect battery life. If your employees use their own mobile devices, take this into consideration. If you provide devices to your mobile employees, review your business cell phone plan. You might want to change your plan before using a geofencing app.
3. Teach Employees How to Use The System
Time tracking apps are super easy to use. It may seem unnecessary to give formal training. But you can’t assume that every employee and manager understands exactly what to do. Train them thoroughly: how to punch in and out, how to view time cards, and how to request time off. If your system syncs with scheduling, show them how to view their schedule and request a shift trade. During the coronavirus, this training may need to take place during a teleconference. If you have an HRMS portal, include a link to training.
4. Review Time and Attendance Policies
You should have explained time and attendance policies to employees when they were hired. Remind employees of the policies before implementing geofencing. Include the policies in your employee handbook. Ensure that managers treat all team members equally when it comes to time and attendance.
The team at ApplicantStack appreciates the employers and employees who are flattening the coronavirus curve by allowing employees to work at home.
Updated March 19, 2020 with the latest information about The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act of 2020 (part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act).
Mandated or voluntary quarantine create confusion for employers and employees alike. Most of us have never experienced a global public health crisis that has affected virtually every aspect of our lives.
Business owners and Human Resources professionals are doing their best to protect their employees while continuing to serve their customers, clients and—in the case of healthcare providers—their patients.
How do you pay quarantined employees? What if they aren’t sick?
First, we will look at obligations under federal laws. Whether or not the employee is sick is a determining factor for FMLA. We discuss FMLA after we discuss broader Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements. This is intended to be a general guide. Competent legal guidance is a good idea.
NOTE: On March 18, The Emergency Paid Leave Act of 2020 was passed. This new legislation provides additional assistance to individuals affected by the COVID-19 crisis. It provides employers with tax credits to offset newly required paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave and specific health plan expenses. We explain how this law affects how you pay employees who take sick leave due to the coronavirus pandemic.
How do I pay quarantined employees?
- Identify employee status
- Use a timekeeping app to track hours
- Determine if FMLA, union contracts, or PTO applies
Identify employee status: exempt, nonexempt, fluctuating work week (FWW), subject to collective bargaining agreement
Is the employee exempt?
FLSA requires employers to pay an exempt worker his or her weekly salary in any workweek in which they work. Whether or not they are quarantined.
Did the exempt employee perform work during the week in which they were quarantined?
If a salaried employee is quarantined after they perform work during a workweek, the employer must pay them their entire salary for that week.
Exempt quarantined employees working at home?
If quarantined exempt employees are working at home, they must be compensated the entire weekly salary for any week in which they perform work.
Exempt quarantined employees at home not working?
The employer doesn’t have to compensate an exempt employee for a workweek in which the employee doesn’t perform any work. We talk about PTO ahead.
Is the employee nonexempt?
The FLSA requires employers to pay nonexempt employees for the time they actually work. Thus, an employer need not compensate hourly employees for time spent in quarantine unless the employee performs work OR there are state requirements for providing paid leave to hourly, nonexempt employees.
Do you have hourly employees working at home during quarantine?
If hourly employees work at home during quarantine, they must be paid for all of their time worked.
How do I track time for hourly employees working at home during quarantine?
Use an employee timekeeping system with a mobile app. Your hourly quarantined employees can clock in at home on their phone, tablet, or laptop.
How do I know my hourly (nonexempt) quarantined employees are at home working?
If you want to ensure your hourly at-home employees are where they say they are, get an employee timekeeping app with geotracking. Their manager (or you) can see where they punch in and out. Geofencing takes it a step further. If you configure a geofence in your mobile employee timekeeping app (it just takes a second), you will be alerted if the employee tries to punch in outside of the fence (geographic location). Read more about geofencing here.
Paid by fluctuating workweek (FWW)
Nonexempt workers paid on a FWW (as defined by the FLSA) generally must be paid their full FWW compensation for each workweek in which they perform any work, whether under quarantine or not.
Exempt quarantined employees with PTO
If your employee is quarantined, you can generally require them to use vacation time or PTO, pursuant to your company PTO policy. This is tricky. If you have any question, consult your legal counsel.
What if I send an hourly employee home in the middle of a shift?
Your state law may require you pay the nonexempt worker for a minimum number of hours for the day. Check with your state department of labor.
Do you have union employees?
Union contracts could affect your absence management during the coronavirus.
Employers with union employees should review their collective bargaining agreements to determine if there are any restrictions on asking people to take unpaid administrative leave or sick leave. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)
The Emergency Paid Leave Act of 2020
This law provides additional assistance to individuals affected by the COVID-19 crisis. As part of this program, employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to provide:
- Up to 80 hours of emergency paid leave to full-time employees along with special considerations for part-time employees.
- Up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave related to caring for a child.
- In addition, the bill requires group health plans, health insurers and government programs to provide free coronavirus testing.
What Do Employers Need To Do To Qualify?
Employers can qualify for tax credits if they are able to:
- Provide employees with a special allocation of qualified PTO;
- Track employee usage of qualified PTO separately from regular PTO; and
- Report qualified PTO usage in a compliant tax filing.
The Emergency Paid Leave Act of 2020 defines an “emergency leave day” as a day in which an individual is unable to work due to one of four qualifying reasons related to COVID-19:
- The worker has a current diagnosis of COVID-19.
- The worker is quarantined (including self-imposed quarantine), at the instruction of a health care provider, employer, or government official, to prevent the spread of COVID19.
- The worker is caring for another person who has COVID-19 or who is under a quarantine related to COVID-19.
- The worker is caring for a child or other individual who is unable to care for themself due to the COVID-19-related closing of their school, child care facility, or other care programs.
It also defines other key terms including “eligible individual,” which is someone who was working in the thirty days before they were impacted by COVID-19.
Qualifying for relief under this law can help your business weather this crisis.
What if I have to close my business temporarily due to the coronavirus?
If you have to close your business temporarily due to the coronavirus, you can generally require exempt employees to take vacation or PTO. You must compensate the employee their full weekly salary. If the worker doesn’t have earned vacation or PTO, you must pay them their regular weekly salary IF they do any work during the week. Otherwise, they could lose their exempt status.
Does FMLA leave apply for employees or family members who may contract coronavirus?
Yes, assuming that the FMLA applies to the employer, coronavirus would qualify as a “serious health condition” under FMLA. The employee could take FMLA leave if either the employee or an immediate family member contracts COVID-19 (or any other illness). In addition, the worker would be entitled to job reinstatement. Your state may have additional protections.
For an employee to invoke their 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave, he or she must have a “serious health condition” and otherwise satisfy the FMLA eligibility criteria. Although the symptoms of COVID-19 have been reported as flu-like, COVID-19 may be considered a serious health condition depending on the circumstances. Accordingly, an employee with COVID-19 or an employee who is taking care of a qualifying family member with COVID-19 may be permitted to take protected FMLA leave. However, employees who refuse to come to work out of fear of contracting COVID-19 would not typically qualify for FMLA leave. (SHRM), February 27, 2020
If your company is subject to FMLA, and the employee is eligible for FMLA, you must provide unpaid leave. Make sure you follow state leave laws as well.
Would I need to pay workers’ compensation for workers who contract coronavirus?
If the employee contracted the disease in the course of their employment, it would probably apply. Does the employees’ work require them to be exposed to persons who are infected? Most healthcare workers meet this criteria. If an employee incidentally contracts the disease from a co-worker, there will likely be no workers’ compensation liability.
Haven’t sent workers home yet?
This graph has been published everywhere in the past few weeks. I am including here in case you haven’t seen it. It helps show why it’s critical to enact measures now to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Allowing employees to work at home protects your business, your community, and healthcare workers.
How to design an absence management policy that works
When the coronavirus crisis has passed, you will still have to manage absences. Let’s discuss how to create an absence management policy.
Employee absences occur within every company. It may occur in the form of tardy employees, sick leave, or paid time off. Designing a good absence management policy that works for both your company and your employees can be a daunting task. Go too strict and inflexible and you may have higher attrition and more stressed out employees who produce less. It is a balancing act between cost and benefit. After all, when employees take time, you essentially pay them not to work. What benefit does that have on your company?
First, let’s define the difference between absence management and leave management. Absence management is the program or policy that your company has to control unexpected leaves due to illness, injury, or emergencies. Absence management includes how you control unscheduled, unexpected, and excessive absences. It includes how you handle late employees.
Leave management covers expected and planned time off. It is the process by which employees request time off work and managers approve or deny those requests.
Your company should clearly outline the policy and procedures for handling both types of employee absences in your employee handbook. This provides employees with a clear idea of employer expectations and a clear path for both unplanned and planned absences.
Absences come in all different forms and sizes. It can come in the form of employee tardiness, minor illnesses, or long-term absences. How you deal with and handle absences will have a great impact on employees as they return to work and re-engage with their jobs.
Absences have a negative impact on the business in several ways:
- Increase employer expense: Employers have to “fill in the gaps” by hiring temporary staff, filling in for a subordinate, or paying other employees overtime. Instead of working on more productive tasks, managers spend time filling vacancies or covering for employees. Higher wages are paid, either to temporary staff or through overtime. This is a hard cost of absences.
- Lower morale: Employees who routinely cover for absent employees can feel burnout quicker. They may feel used. Increased workloads mean higher stress. If one employee is perceived to be absent an unfair number of times, this can increase perceived bias by management to allow these absences.
- Increased mistakes: Staff that is required to cover other job positions or meet with clients they don’t have relationships with are more likely to make mistakes. Employees who return to work after repeated absences or a lengthy absence is more likely to make a mistake or be unaware of changes.
- Decreased productivity: Covering shifts can mean your employees are unable to focus on the priorities of their own responsibilities. This happens as “emergency” tasks take priority over less urgent, but more important tasks. Employees get stressed, which makes distraction easier.
The Cause of Employee Absenteeism
First, let’s take a look at many reasons why employees are absent from work:
- Minor illness or injury: employees are absent for a short period of time.
- Personal emergencies: alternative childcare for a sick child, domestic violence, car malfunction, or another personal issue that impedes the employee’s ability to show up to work timely or at all during a particular shift.
- Reccuring medical conditions: impact the employees’ absences over the course of a long time. They also impact presenteeism, when an employee shows up to work, but fails to be fully productive due to the medical condition.
- Mental illness and health: stress and burnout impact employee mental health. They also exasperate mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. Mental illness is often cited as a top reason for employee absences, even when it is not the reason reported to management.
Understanding these reasons helps you to develop a better plan around absence management. It is important to get the real reason why an employee is absent. But, that’s not the only step.
Clarify your policy around absences
Your policy should address things such as tardies and short-term leave. It should also include extended leave policies. Define what is unacceptable. Identify solutions for employees facing unexpected absences and who should be notified. Outline company resources to help with employee absences. Your resources can include direct managers, human resources, or outside help.
For example, domestic violence often shows up with an excuse of injury, car troubles, or other excuses. Mental illness is the same. Employees cite other external reasons for absence when anxiety or depression is the actual cause. You can help employees to deal with these external factors by providing resources that employees can turn to in a crisis. This can help to stem absences.
Be sure to include information regarding employee leaves such as FMLA and make sure that your policy covers absences protected by law such as those caused by pregnancy disability or other disabilities.
- Identify your policy around absences:
- Identify employee procedure when absences occur
- Outline resources for employees facing an absence
- Cover absences covered by the law
Track and Measure Employee Absences
It’s impossible to really understand the absences in your company if you aren’t tracking them. Make sure that you have a reliable timekeeping system that will accurately track employee schedules and absences when they fail to show up for work. You can take a granular look at individual days and shifts or look at overall patterns, trends and seasons.
This allows you to see specific employee patterns, identify managers with increased absenteeism, or show potential issues with specific locations or shifts.
If you don’t track absences, you can’t improve it. Measuring allows you the data you need to address issues without attacking individuals or making employees defensive. For more information on how Timeworks Plus can help your business track and monitor employee absences, fill out the form below this article.
Stay in Communication
When employees are tardy or absent, it is vital to communicate with them. Don’t assume that employees know that regular tardies are an unacceptable habit. Instead, touch base with them, find out the real cause behind the tardy and discuss options for solutions. When employees are sick, touching base, instead of simply acknowledging a text, is vital to showing them that you care and are concerned with their well-being. It also provides a great way to keep employees informed of changes while they are gone.
Generally, touching base early in the absence provides a way for the employer to check in on the employee, provide well-wishes, and to discuss a timeframe for communication that will work for the employee and manager. Employees can identify how they would like to be contacted during an extended leave and how often. Some employees like regular check-ins while others feel pressured to return to work if they hear from their employer too often. Thus, it’s important to discuss and set up a framework for all contacts at the company to follow. This will also help to reduce redundant calls from managers, HR, and payroll.
Employers can use an employee portal to provide updates to absent employees. Updates, communications, and resources can be made available. Thus, employees who are absent for an extended period can check in, read the latest or watch news releases, and feel a part of the company during that time. This provides flexibility, but also provides a verifiable method of issuing employee notices without harassing the employee.
Have a “Back to Work” Process
Create a “back to work” process. This can be something as simple as a checklist kept in your workforce management software. It should include steps such as a return to work interview, reorientation on new policies and procedures, and updates on changes while they were gone.
- Welcomed back to work by manager
- Back to work interview
- Reorientation on updates, changes, or news
- Collection of all documents related to the leave
Employees returning to work after an absence should have a “back to work” interview. Managers can welcome the employee back to work and update them. This can be an informal discussion where their manager updates them on any relevant news during a brief absence. This can include updates on customer messages or conversation with other account reps.
Or, it can be a lengthier process wherein employees are given time and resources to adjust to working again.
It can include a modified schedule for the employee to climatize back into full-time work. Or it can include a discussion regarding how the employer can accommodate an employee’s long-term disability or medical needs.
Back to work processes should include gathering any further documentation required by FMLA, sick leave, or other labor laws. They can include setting the employee backup on benefits and re-orientating them to the workplace and new policies implemented during their absence.
By utilizing a back to work policy, you help to ensure that employees returning to work don’t feel unnecessary stress and anxiety over the change in schedule and responsibilities.
Unlike absence management, leave management usually revolves around planned absences. From a numbers standpoint, leave management appears to be counter-intuitive. You pay employees to not work. However, leave management lowers employee stress, provides better work/life balance.
Accurately plan for leave requests
How many employees can be off at a given time?
If you have a number in your head, then consider if that number should be the same year round. Although many managers have a set number of employees who can “take” time off on any given week, the reality is much different. Business ebbs and flows. Some weeks allow for more employees to take PTO, while other weeks produce greater demand. But the only way to really know the demands of the business is through historical records.
The winter holidays (Thanksgiving through New Years) is often a very busy time for retailers. However, other employers may see a marked decrease in customer traffic and demand. Make sure to rely on your workforce management data and plan week by week for allowable absences. This will help you to approve extra PTO requests when the business needs naturally slows down.
Make PTO easy for employees
Don’t shame employees who take time off. Don’t make it difficult for employees to request time off. Time away from work is important for employees to maintain a healthy balance and it ranks as a high priority on employee benefits.
Ideally, PTO is requested in advance. However, employees are human and subject to poor planning. Family or friends may invite them on spur-of-the-moment activities that are highly valued to the employee. So it’s important to provide a means for employees to request time off.
An employee portal becomes a valuable tool because employees can request time off at the time they are thinking about it. They don’t have to wait until the next workday to request time off. It provides managers with current requests. This means that both employees and managers can better plan for time off.
Another way to provide flexibility for PTO requests is to allow employees to initiate “shift swapping.” This allows employees to agree to swap a shift, which then has to be approved by a manager. This helps eliminate the time spent by managers to find a replacement. Shift swapping is handled in TimeSimplicity.
Employers can enable PTO sharing, where employees can donate extra time off to an employee who faces special circumstances. This helps to build community and foster goodwill.
Lastly, don’t forget to give employees access to self-service when handling their leave tasks. Provide access to your employee handbook, Q&A, and leave balances on the employee portal. Finally, let employees submit FMLA certificates electronically vía the portal.
Respond to leave requests promptly
Managers who respond to leave requests immediately help foster communication. Employees can immediately know if they will be able to continue their plans for time off. Managers can view time off requests vía their workstation or a mobile device.
Use an absence calendar
An absence calendar helps managers to see at a glance who is scheduled off today and in the near future. THey can better plan. Absence calendars make it easier for managers to respond because they can quickly see who is scheduled to be off during the same time period. Managers can access their absence calendar on their mobile devices.
Employees don’t like to be left in the dark. Be transparent and they are more likely to be part of the solution. If employees understand how much time off is allocated and why they are more likely to plan around busy seasons. Employees know when they are buses and when they have periods where there is more conversation time. Let them be a part of the conversation.
Additionally, transparency helps to alleviate disgruntled employees who don’t get requested time off. Employees see how many requests are ahead of theirs and learn that earlier requests get approved easier. If you prioritize time off by seniority, then having a clear process helps new employees to know when the deadlines for senior requests are over so they can promptly request time off.
Reduce the impact of unexpected absences through a good absence management process. This helps you to increase employee notice of absences and helps employees to transition back to work. Employees time off helps them to recover from illness, reset their stress levels, and increase production. Make sure you have the tools and policies in place to maximize your ROI.
By Annemaria Duran and Liz Strikwerda. Last updated March 16, 2020