Supervising staff under the current Coronavirus/COVID-19 situation can be challenging. We have compiled several resources that will be helpful to council members as they work to assist their staff members. These resources, listed in the sidebar, include guidance from government agencies, Whitfield & Eddie Law, Extension and Outreach, and Employee & Family Resources (our EAP provider).
At this point in time, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) has not been renewed. Kay Osvig, Whitfield & Eddy Legal said the main takeaway is that there is no mandate that employers offer paid leave related to COVID-19 in 2021. She outlined the following clarifications:
Emergency Paid Sick Leave. Your council may continue to provide EPSL (2 weeks paid leave), but you are not required to. Employees are not eligible for a second two-week period. In other words, if John received 2 weeks of EPSL in 2020, he does not get another 2 weeks in 2021. If John works 40 hours/week, and only used 30 of his 80 hours in 2020, you may choose to allow him to use the remaining 50 hours in 2021 (if he meets the eligibility criteria – see the Dept. of Labor's FFCRA Poster).
Expanded FMLA. Your council may continue to provide paid family leave for employees caring for their minor children whose school or place of care is closed. You are not required to provide this leave. Employees do not receive an additional 12 weeks of paid time unless your organization provides FMLA on a calendar year basis.
What does this mean for your organization or your employees? If you choose to continue to cover the FFCRA leave, you should do so on a non-discriminatory basis. Your organization may want to post an addendum on the FFCRA poster regarding your organization’s decision whether or not to provide leave.
FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS and ACCOMMODATIONS
Guidance for Flexible Workplace Requests | Assists council/employer and the employee with things to consider when setting up a flexible workplace plan.
Documentation of Disability for County Employees | Should be used when employees have a health-related issue for which they are requesting accommodation.
EMPLOYEE LEAVE POLICY RESOURCES FROM WHITFIELD & EDDY
EMPLOYEE LEAVE TOOLS FROM WHITFIELD & EDDY
- Councils may ask employees to complete and submit this form, including required documentation, when the employee requests leave. This form is current as of 4-15-2020, to the best of our knowledge. We will try to update it as regulatory guidance changes.
- Councils may utilize this form to internally track whether an employee is eligible for FFCRA leave or other leave. This form is designed to be a tool, but not a final answer, for Councils as they consider leave requests. An employee may request six leaves of paid childcare leave but may not be eligible for that leave due to previous FMLA usage. In other circumstances, the employee may ask to use PTO to ‘supplement’ the amount they receive while out on leave. This form does not cover intermittent leave documentation – if your Council is not familiar with or could use a refresher on intermittent leave, please reach out for guidance.
Council policies regarding PTO and other benefits vary. Some Councils require concurrent use of PTO. Others do not. This form is a guide for the Council member, County director, or other Council HR representative when analyzing whether an employee is eligible for leave and meant to remind Councils of other leave/benefit programs. We expect you will have questions based on specific situations and Council policies.
STAFF WORKING FROM HOME
Councils are encouraged to make arrangements for their staff to work remotely whenever possible. Extension and Outreach has many tools and resources, including work files and documents, that can be accessed online. We encourage councils to allow staff to take desktop or laptop computers home to do their work from home. It will be important to maintain the confidentiality of any personal information staff works with and to ask staff if they have access to the internet from their home or a suitable offsite location.
Although most work can be done remotely, there are several reasons why you’ll need staff to check on the office. Make a list of items that need to be monitored or processed, including collecting and reading the mail, depositing and receipting any money, accepting deliveries, returning phone messages, building security, making sure heating is working and pipes don’t freeze, etc.
Even if the office is closed to the public, you may wish to have staff rotate being in the office, perhaps even just one person at a time, for a specified duration. They should disinfect the surfaces they touch before they begin and before they leave. Similarly, the next person that uses the office should do the same. For staff safety, they should have a supervisor or designated coworker that they can check in with by phone to ensure that they returned home safely, or can convey needs for their supervisor or council to make decisions on.
The Extension and Outreach Professional Development unit, along with program leaders are putting together many resources for staff to catch up on video trainings, etc.
Working from home is not time off. Most offices are using TimeClock Plus and county employees can report their work hours online. In all cases, staff should stay in communication with supervisor. Supervisors should help prioritize work, and if other items, such as professional development, can be an appropriate use of their time.
Consider your employee handbook and if the current policies apply to this special case or if you want to modify them. Be clear with staff about what is expected if they work from home and how that is different from vacation, sick leave or leave without pay. Recognize that our staff is our greatest asset and the COVID-19 crisis was not their doing. Valuing them by protecting them and keeping them engaged and on the payroll is important to our long term success.
STAFF THAT CANNOT PERFORM THEIR DUTIES
The state and federal government are putting together unemployment tools. Councils may want to decide how they are able to help their employee and families by offering them employment stability. It will be important to treat employees similarly.
Whitfield & Eddy Law has summarized the current status of the pending federal legislation regarding FMLA and mandatory paid sick leave as well as this week’s changes to Iowa unemployment insurance practices in an Employer Update posted on the IECA website. The document includes an FAQ compiled with the resources they currently have.