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Tips to Manage Your Business During the Coronavirus Pandemic

posted March 26, 2020

Tips to Manage Your Busines During the Coronavirus Pandemic.  While the Coronavirus pandemic is a public health crisis with many states issuing stay- at- home oders it’s also leaving a negative impact on business, especially small businesses.

 1. Disruption of Normal Operations

One option may be to consider reducing hours of employees or laying them off. But such actions have consequences, specifically for your employee benefit plan.

2. Lay Offs and Reduced Hours

If you offer health coverage, then you most likely require contributions from your employees. In many cases, those contributions are made through payroll deductions or cafeteria plan. Decide whether you will pick up the entire cost of the plan during a temporary furlough or reduction in hours and, if not, how will you collect the employee’s portion of the cost if there is no payroll to withhold?  Review your plan document and any insurance policy issued to the plan, whether it’s a fully insured or self-funded plan with stop-loss insurance. The plan document will determine whether a furloughed employee, or one whose hours have been reduced, is still eligible for coverage.  Amend and update your plan if needed.

Finally, review any insurance policy issued to the plan to determine whether a furloughed employee or one whose hours have been cut is still covered or you may have to ask your insurance company to amend the policy.

3. Termination A termination of employment is a qualifying event under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act  (COBRA) reduction in hours may also be a qualifying event, depending upon the scope of the reduction. If the action taken constitutes a qualifying event under COBRA, then you must provide the required notice and opportunity to elect coverage under COBRA.

4. Paid Leave Any action you take may implicate the employee’s right to paid or unpaid leave. Check your sick leave or PTO policy, a furloughed employee may be able to take advantage of paid leave during a furlough. In addition, the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act expanded an employee’s right to Family and Medical Leave. And, finally check whether a furloughed employee will be entitled to claim the right to payment under that legislation.

5. Highly Compensated Employees? Any action you take cannot be discriminatory by job function. This means that more generous benefits cannot be offered to highly compensated employees.

Wrap Up

It’s clear that the Coronavirus pandemic will have consequences well beyond the health of your employees. If your business is considering furloughing or laying off employees, it’s important to first get focused on how your existing policies, procedures, and employee benefit plan documents will respond. This will dictate how benefits are extended to those employees for a period afterward.

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