Small Business Coronavirus Relief Started April 1st: How Can My Business Qualify?

Small Business Coronavirus Relief Started April 1st: How Can My Business Qualify?

Updated April 23, 2020.

What programs in the recent relief bills help small businesses?

In March 2020, the federal government passed three multi trillion-dollar relief bills which represent the largest economic stimulus in US history.

  • The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations ActPassed March 6, 2020 
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)–Passed March 18, 2020) 
  • Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) ActPassed March 27, 2020 

Small Business Tax Credits and Forgivable Loans 

In this article, we focus on two small business relief programs. They are part of the second and third bills. The programs we address are: 

  • Tax Credits for Paid Sick and Paid Family and Medical Leave (Part of the FFCRA)
  • Paycheck Protection Program (Part of the CARES Act)

Tax Credits for Paid Sick and Paid Family and Medical Leave are part of the FFCRA that includes the EPSLA and the expansion of the Family and Medical Leave (FMLA). The Paycheck Protection Program is part of the CARES act.


 

What are most important things for small businesses to do right now?

It’s understandable if you feel overwhelmed right now. Many business owners do. Let’s take things one step at a time. First;

  1. Track employee hours for at-home, onsite, and mobile employees
  2. Don’t cut wages, furlough employees, or lay off employees before you learn what you can qualify for

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

What is the EPSLA?  

The FFCRA requires employers to provide paid leave through two separate components; 

  • The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) 
  • Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (Expanded FMLA) 

The EPSLA is the second law contained in the FFCRA that provides paid leave. Specifically, it provides full-time employees up to 80 hours (two weeks) of paid sick leave for basically the same coronavirus related reasons as outlined in the EFMLEA. 

We will now answer employers’ frequently asked questions regarding these programs. 

How does an employee qualify for leave under the programs? 

You will recognize that many of these qualifiers are contained in FMLA. The notable addition is that employees may qualify if they are unable to work because the employee must care for a son or daughter whose school or daycare is closed due to a public health emergency or if the employee is under a quarantine order by any jurisdiction. 

 

Can I qualify for the EPSLA 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.

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.

When calculating EPSLA 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.

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. They also track PTO, sick leave, and overtime.

 

I can’t wait until I file my taxes next year. How can I make payroll right now?

The answer to this question brings us to the second topic of this article, The Paycheck Protection program. 

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) 

The PPP component in the CARES act is designed to provide loans to businesses to cover qualified operating expenses for a limited periodIf the requirements are met, the loan can be forgiven. The Small Business Administration (SBA) will administer this program. 

How much of the loan can be forgiven?

Employers may receive 100% reimbursement if the conditions are met.

What types of business operating expenses apply?

  • Payroll 
  • Utilities 
  • Rent 
  • Interest on mortgage debt 
  • Health insurance costs 

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

What should small business owners do right now to determine if they qualify for a Paycheck Protection Loan? 

  1. Look at your payroll to see if you kept the employees you had 
  2. If you reduced your staff, there will be a reduction in loan forgiveness available 
  3. If you’ve cut wages by 25%, that dollar value will affect the loan forgiveness as well. 

Can I qualify for a Paycheck Protection Loan if I have already let employees go? 

Yes. If you bring them back on your payroll.

Where can I find more information about tracking employee time, earning tax credits or qualifying for a Paycheck Protection Loan?

How Do I Pay Quarantined Workers?

Use Geofencing to Track Remote Employees

How To Manage PTO For Remote Workers

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


Video Interviewing Helps Recruiters Hire Remotely While Social Distancing

Video Interviewing Helps Recruiters Hire Remotely While Social Distancing

Updated March 26, 2020

Video interviewing is helping essential businesses interview candidates during the coronavirus pandemic.

Recruiters and Job Applicants are Working Remotely

  1. Recruiters can interview candidates while working from home
  2. Applicants can talk to hiring managers while self-isolating
  3. Hiring teams can record video interviews for remote collaboration

Face-to-face interviewing is very difficult if not impossible right now. The days of in-person interaction are on hold. Video interviewing platforms are critical right now.

Video interviewing platforms create a streamlined, consistent and convenient interview process—a process that makes life easier for both applicants and hiring managers. When hiring processes have been turned upside down, anything that makes life easier for recruiters is worth its weight in gold.

So how does it work?

Hiring managers looking to invest in video interviewing platforms have two options: one-way recorded interviewing or two-way live interviewing.

One-Way Video Interviewing

Employers using the one-way video interviewing process send a list of questions and topics to the applicants ahead of the scheduled interview date. Applicants have the opportunity to read over the questions and come up with answers on their own time (like after dinner, over the weekend, or really whenever they want). Then they send back a video of themselves answering the questions. It’s simple and efficient.

  • Create text or video based questions
  • Limit think time
  • Control the number of allotted takes
  • Restrict max answer length

One-way video technology places responsibility in the hands of the applicants by giving them time to formulate answers and requiring them to submit their response on their own time. While they don’t have to make the drive to an office, they do have to set up a video recording of themselves.

Two-Way Video Interviewing

The two-way live video interview process is similar to traditional face-to-face interviews. Hiring managers who want to use this process need to contact the applicant and schedule a time that works for both parties. Applicants scheduled for a two-way video interview prepare as they would for a traditional interview process—by compiling a resume, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and coming up with answers for possible questions.

  • Record full-length interviews
  • Brand your interviews
  • Conduct interviews directly in your web browser
  • Receive concierge support

What are the benefits of video interviewing?

There are plenty of reasons to invest in video interviewing platforms. Some of the benefits hiring managers gain from switching to video interviewing are:

  • It’s cost effective
  • It’s easier to schedule and can take place after work hours
  • Allows for consistent interview questions
  • Easy to track performance and compare applicants
  • Reveals how candidates handle technology
  • Helps hiring mangers find employees they wouldn’t have found otherwise

The right video interviewing technology saves time, energy and money. It allows hiring managers with packed schedules to find the right time for an interview—even if it’s after work hours—and gives applicants the convenience of interviewing from their own home (or wherever they feel most comfortable).

The option to choose a convenient location is one of the most valuable benefits. Video interviewing gives candidates who aren’t entirely committed to pursuing an open position the opportunity to interview—without having to worry about the inconvenience of transportation. And sometimes the best fit for an open position is the talented candidate who isn’t sure what they want or isn’t sure if they have the time to drive across town for an interview.

Tips for successful video interviewing

There are, of course, a few important things to remember when using video interviewing technology. Unreliable internet connection, difficulty performing in front of a camera, finding a quiet place for the interview—these are some potential difficulties for video interviews. But these problems are easy to avoid and hiring managers should give applicants a brief explanation of how the process works beforehand.

Hiring managers also have the choice to use video interviewing for some positions and not others. They may want to reserve video technology for applicants from out of town or those applying for remote positions. The flexibility of video interviewing gives hiring managers and applicants the opportunity to communicate and determine which option works best.

There’s no reason for employers to miss out on streamlining their interview process and securing the best talent. Companies that implement video interviewing technology may have an edge over companies relying on in-person meetings.

Getting the most out of video technology

Video interviewing technology alone is helpful. But when paired with an applicant tracking software, it’s transformative—it’s the missing piece of the hiring puzzle that completes the picture and enhances a company’s performance.

HR reps and hiring managers who use an applicant tracking software integrated with a video interview system are able to perform one-way or two-way live video interviews and compare applicants with help from other applicant tracking software features. Using these tools together allows for a seamless hiring process, from screening applications to performing interviews to onboarding.

After screening and ranking applications, hiring managers and HR departments can determine which applicants they want to interview. And after scheduling and completing the interviews, they can watch the videos, compare them to performances from other candidates and submit feedback using their applicant tracking system review features.

Use Video Interviewing to Connect With Quality Candidates Anywhere 

Companies who want the top talent need the right technology. An applicant tracking system like ApplicantStack integrated with a best-in-class video interviewing platform, gives companies the edge they need to find the right fit for open positions. By relying on video interviews, hiring managers can save time, energy, and money—all while analyzing each applicant.

ApplicantStack, the affordable, full-featured applicant tracking system trusted by over 1,500 companies to manage their candidates and workflows, integrates with Spark Hire, Inc. for video interviewing.

Spark Hire is a video interviewing platform used by more than 3,000 organizations to make better hires in a fraction of the time. For more information about Spark Hire go to Spark Hire.

Geofencing Helps Prof. Services Companies Track At-Home Employees

Geofencing Helps Prof. Services Companies Track At-Home Employees

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:

  1. Make sure you pay employees accurately (the last thing they need is a problem with their paycheck)
  2. FMLA/FLSA compliance
  3. To maintain employee hours records for any coronavirus government employer relief programs
  4. To maximize your labor budget
  5. Accurate PTO calculations
  6. Establish accountability (for everyone)
  7. 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

  1. Identify employees who clock in or out beyond their authorized location
  2. Receive a notification in real time if a punch occurs outside the fence
  3. Generate reports of punch times and locations for a specific employee or group
  4. Track employee hours for accurate payroll
  5. Retain employee time cards for FLSA, FMLA, coronavirus relief recordkeeping
  6. Enforce time and attendance policies
  7. Ensure employees know they are at the correct location
  8. Track employee hours per project or job location
  9. 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.

How do I pay quarantined workers? Absence management for COVID-19.

How do I pay quarantined workers? Absence management for COVID-19.

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?

  1. Identify employee status
  2. Use a timekeeping app to track hours
  3. 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.

Absence Management

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.

Leave Management

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.

Be transparent

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.

Conclusion

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

Coronavirus: What Your Healthcare HR Department Needs to Know Right Now

Coronavirus: What Your Healthcare HR Department Needs to Know Right Now

Every day, healthcare employers realize that the coronavirus situation is impacting HR in yet another way.

Let’s go over the urgent issues for Human Resources departments in healthcare, social services, daycares, and dental practices.

Buckle up. There are a lot.

What should my HR department be doing about the coronavirus?

  1. Protect employees
  2. Let employees work at home if possible
  3. Consider paid sick leave
  4. Administer FMLA, worker’s comp, disability correctly
  5. Understand how the EEOC Pandemic Preparedness guidance may influence ADA compliance
  6. Prepare for things to get worse

1. Protect employees

Require all employees to use preventative practices to avoid exposure or transmission of the virus. If an employee comes to work sick, send them home before they come in contact with co-workers.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, inform your staff or possible exposure. You don’t have to reveal the employee’s identity. Require exposed co-workers to follow CDC guidance of risk assessment.

Use your HR software to enforce policies

If you have an HR portal, post continual reminders about best practices for infection control. Include proper hand washing, disinfecting work surfaces frequently, coughing into a tissue and throwing it away, and social distancing.

Place posters throughout the workplace reminding employees of your policies. Consult the CDC website frequently for updates on best practices.

Non-essential employees

If your employees who don’t provide patient care clock in with a webclock, post a message on the clock in portal requiring them to go home if they experience flu-like symptoms. Tell them to leave immediately and either call, email, or text their manager when they get home.

Make it easy to disinfect in your workplace

Provide soap and water, tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and no-touch waste baskets throughout your facility.

Ask your custodial staff to disinfect door handles, bathroom faucet handles, remote controls, countertops, and other high-touch items more frequently.

If you use a biometric time clock that requires employees to touch a screen, disinfect it between employees following the manufacturer’s instructions. Provide hand sanitizer next to the clock so employees can disinfect their hands after clocking in. Consider getting a no-touch biometric clock such as an iris scan model.

2. Let employees work at home and provide IT support

In healthcare workplaces most employees need to be onsite. Evaluate how many administrative workers can work remotely. Provide IT support if necessary so employees can stay virtually connected and do their jobs.

Use a human resources management system (HRMS) to help employees understand and follow company policies.

Dangerous rumors and worker fears can spread as quickly as a virus. It is imperative for companies to be able to reach all workers, including those not at the worksite, with regular, internally coordinated, factual updates about infection control, symptoms, and company policy regarding remote work and circumstances in which employees might be excluded from or allowed to return to the workplace. Harvard Business Review

Pay at-home workers accurately

You can track employee time for at-home workers with inexpensive employee timekeeping and scheduling apps. Your employees can clock in with their smartphone, view their schedules, and access their timecard.

3. Consider paid sick leave

If an employee gets COVID-19 or experiences symptoms, consider offering paid sick leave. Many people can’t miss even one paycheck. Companies who don’t offer paid sick leave risk having ill employees come to work and infecting others. Even employees who are not ill may need to quarantine or self-isolate.

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)

When can I let employees come back to work after quarantine?

They must have had no symptoms for at least 24 hours. Free of fever 100.4°F (37.8° C) or higher. That means  WITHOUT using medication that could mask or suppress the symptoms including fever-reducing painkillers or cough medicine. NOTE: this is current CDC guidelines. This could change when more is known about COVID-19. Check CDC updates frequently.

Don’t require a doctor’s note

Don’t require a doctor’s note for not coming in to work, verifying recovery (or no symptoms after quarantine period). Many healthcare providers are overwhelmed and may not be able to provide the documentation for several weeks. If they quality for FMLA leave, they may need a doctor’s verification at some point. We discuss FMLA below.

4. Coronavirus and FMLA, worker’s comp and disability

FMLA, worker’s comp, and disability can be complicated in the best of times. HR professionals have several questions about how to administer these as it applies to coronavirus.

This is the most recent guidance from the Department of Labor.

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

Coronavirus FMLA takeaway: If your company is subject to FMLA, and an infected worker (or the worker’s immediate family member) 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.

Coronavirus worker’s comp takeaway: Consult with a medical professional on infectious diseases for advice on whether an employee’s illness is work-related.

Would I need to pay my employees disability benefits if they contract the coronavirus?

Yes, if such payments are provided in your company’s benefit plan.

Employer coronavirus disability takeaway: Review the limits of coverage in your benefit plan to ensure they have medical resources to administer the program.

5. Coronavirus and ADA compliance

In many situations, the coronavirus will most certainly qualify for “direct threat” status as defined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Pandemic Preparedness guidance. Consult your legal counsel to navigate the gray area where ADA rules and CDC recommendations intersect.

  • Keep personal health information confidential
  • Don’t single people out as having an increased risk due to racial or ethnic factors
  • Any employer who prevents workers who’ve recently traveled to China may be vulnerable to an ADA violation

Maintain confidentiality for people exposed, self-quarantined, or with confirmed cases of the disease. You need to inform your employees if they were exposed to someone with COVID-19, but you don’t necessarily need to divulge the employee’s identity.

A “direct threat” is “a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.” If an individual with a disability poses a direct threat despite reasonable accommodation, he or she is not protected by the nondiscrimination provisions of the ADA. Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans With Disabilities Act,  (EEOC)

6. Prepare for increased cases

This will most likely get worse before they get better.

  • Cross-train employees to decrease the impact of absenteeism
  • Evaluate business travel policies
  • Consider which conferences and meetings you should cancel or reschedule
  • Train managers and employees on updated company policies
  • Multi-state employers: determine if you need to modify policies for managing multiple locations. For example, you may need to give increased authority to onsite managers to make decisions based on local conditions.

Create an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan using CDC guidance.

How Manager Feedback and Interview Evaluations Improve Hiring in 2020

How Manager Feedback and Interview Evaluations Improve Hiring in 2020

Updated August 15, 2020

If you aren’t using candidate evaluation forms, you aren’t collaborating effectively.

Candidate Evaluation Forms For Interview Feedback

What is a candidate evaluation form? It’s a tool that allows members of the hiring team to rate applicants based on the same criteria. It is also called an interview feedback form or candidate feedback form.

8 Ways Candidate Evaluation Forms Improve Recruiting

  1. It ensures each interviewer is thorough in their evaluation
  2. It speeds up the interview feedback process
  3. It helps prevent bias in job interview evaluation
  4. It measures hard and soft skills
  5. It simplifies collaboration among your hiring team
  6. It helps differentiate candidates with near-identical qualifications
  7. It improves the candidate experience
  8. It saves time when first-round rejected candidates are considered for future positions
  9. The systemized scoring increases the usefulness of your talent pipeline database

The Interview Feedback Review Process

How do you evaluate candidates without a systematic way to rate them?

Let’s consider a common scenario.

You currently have a mission-critical position to fill and a fairly tight deadline to hire a qualified person. You have posted the position on your website and other outside resources like Monster, CareerBuilder, Indeed and Craigslist.

What comes next is a stack of resumes. Followed by the interview process. In 2020, you’re competing with many other companies to find the best talent. You can’t afford a slowdown in your process.

The top candidate could be hired by your competitor. The most desirable candidates are off the market in 10 days.

But you need to proceed strategically so you don’t hire the wrong person.

You pick up the first resume and encounter some mission statements like…

  • “Motivated individual seeks challenging position for personal and professional growth”
  • “Industry expert and thought leader available to implement revenue-ramping methodologies.”
  • “Professional guru with proven track record of driving key performance metrics seeks next challenging opportunity.”

…and you then proceed to read through four more pages of the resume.

Buried in the resume amid the industry keywords and buzzwords is the information that is relevant to your open position. After reading about 10 of these resumes, you can’t remember which candidate had which qualifications. It’s a good idea to organize the applicants into categories like “Unqualified”, “Potential” and “Top Prospect” as you are reviewing the resumes so you can focus on the shortlist of more qualified candidates when you revisit them.

The next step in the process is to make every effort to forward only the best applicants to your manager for review, so you don’t waste the manager’s time and earn his/her confidence that you understand the critical needs.

How Can I Get Useful Interview Feedback From My Hiring Team?

One of the most challenging aspects of the hiring process is about to occur… obtaining useful feedback from your staff during this review process. No matter how many employees you engage in the hiring process, it’s important that you gather the feedback in a consistent and meaningful way.

Let’s discuss how you use candidate evaluation forms filled out by your managers and staff during the review process.

How Can I Standardize Interview Feedback?

Utilizing multiple choice, ratings or scale questions when requesting feedback may prevent receiving vague reasons they are not interested and emails that are difficult to interpret. While you will find feedback questionnaires and interview examples helpful during the review process, you will find them even more necessary after the applicant has been interviewed.

When each member of the hiring team contributes to the interview feedback form, you elevate the entire process. Each person’s perspective and expertise improves the scoring.

The result? You will find best-fit employees quickly.

Job Interview Evaluation Comments Samples

Here are some examples of effective interview feedback evaluation forms. You can modify them as appropriate for the specific position. For example, if the position requires additional skills not listed here, add the skills to the first evaluation sample.

Interview Feedback Examples (Pre-Interview)

Very often the manager reads the candidate’s resume and uses a gut feeling to determine if the candidate should be considered. They may even make a judgment based on the resume format, the number of jobs and where they went to school. If you ask the manager exactly what it is they liked or didn’t like, you will receive more meaningful information and can make a more informed decision about whether you should invite this candidate in for an actual face to face interview.

Pre interview questionnaire

Examples of Effective Manager Feedback Questions (Post Interview)

The feedback you receive from the staff involved in the face to face interview can also be based on more fair and factual information if guidelines for evaluation are distributed. It is recommended that the skills or competencies needed to be successful in the job are listed so the interviewer can explore these areas during the interview and rate each candidate effectively. Please note the two different examples below.

Negative/Positive Interview Comments Example #1

Post Interview 1-1

Post Interview 1-2

Post Interview 1-3

Negative/Positive Interview Comments Example #2

Post Interview 2-1

How Job Interview Feedback Fits in the Applicant Journey

Job interview evaluation influences other applicant touchpoints. As such, it can help you improve job descriptions, interview scripts, and other candidate communications. It also helps members of your hiring team become better at evaluating candidates. It’s a key best practice for any company that is serious about improving hiring outcomes.

Benefits of a Structured Interview Feedback Process

  1. Avoids typical evaluations of candidates that may be filled with ambiguity, superficial statements, and generalizations.
  2. Your hiring decision is based on objective information that the candidate’s skills match your job or project requirements—not because they are an excellent resume writer.
  3. The standardized evaluation questions point out the different opinions of the interview/ evaluation staff and help raise any red flags about the candidate.
  4. Ensures your hiring process is in compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  5. Helps avoid costly hiring mistakes.
  6. Using multiple selection methods helps to ensure you are choosing the best candidate–No single technique on its own can predict on-the-job performance and success.
  7. Streamlines the process and ensure a better, fit—increasing employee retention and productivity.

The Problem Solver Hiring Philosophy

Before you create your interview script and candidate evaluation form, establish your overall philosophy. In the following Quora post, Ryan Duffee, HR manager and consultant, explains how he focuses on finding problem solvers.

When hiring someone, you should always be looking for a problem solver. A business in itself is a problem solver. The company you represent is providing a solution to a problem (whatever is in demand). The product or service you provide is a solution. Inside your business, problems will come up. Especially new start-ups or businesses who have been around forever and operating on antiquated tech or software, policy creation, accounting, personnel, etc. Whenever an organization makes a decision to hire, it is because there is a problem and they need to bring someone in to fix it. Don’t think problems are all negative either. Hiring someone to take on an increase in workload is a positive problem to have. It goes both ways. Moreover, when looking at resumes or interviewing people, the one thing on your mind is, can or will this person fix my problem?

Know The Needs in Your Organization

As an HR Manager, it is my responsibility to know about 99% of the things going on within my company. If you have an HR person that can’t tell you the workload going through a department, that is an issue. I personally make it my routine to meet with dept. managers to ask how their depts. are performing. Not only does it help me understand what they’re doing, it shows them that upper management and/or C-suite are engaged and have better communication.

Most of the time I receive a quick, “good-good” or “great, thanks”, but there are those times where I get the needed info, “We’re swamped and John Doe is overwhelmed and falling behind!” Now is when I (your person) come into action. I will sit with managers and discuss a number of things like workflow trends; is the work load increase just a temporary thing? How long has it been this way? How much production or time have we lost? My job becomes a fact finder (investigator) to go to the executive team to say, “Everyone, we have problems X, Y & Z… My recommendation is to hire or not hire more personnel to handle the increased work load. If we hire 1, 2… this is what we can expect in terms of increased production.” If the ROI on hiring a problem solver (new hire) is greater than the expenses, it makes sense.

Create Your Job Description Based on Problems That Need to be Solved

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When reviewing resumes, have those problems you need to fix not only on your list of questions, but they should be on the job posting, listed in the form of a job description. Why is that important? This gives the job seeker a chance to see your problems and ask themselves if they’re the right problem solver to help you and apply.

When you know your problems you can clearly define the solution(s) you’re looking for. So, before you go hiring your best friend from the neighborhood because you want to have lunch with them and chat about everything in the world because it’s fun, you need to ask the question of how effective of a solution is this to my problem, or will it create a new problem? Nothing wrong with hiring your friend, I’m just using that as an example. I say, “hire solutions and make a new friends.”

This is not a blanket, one-size-fits-all thing. You should know your organization’s needs, the culture, the work and training required, etc. Hiring an 18 y/o to flip burgers and serve fries doesn’t require the same scrutiny as hiring a Project Manager who will be overseeing multi-million dollar projects. However, you can use this problem solver philosophy to help narrow your search regardless of your industry. (Ryan Duffee)

For more information on candidate evaluation, see: