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Coronavirus Bill Requiring Paid Employee Leave Signed Into LawOn March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the Act) into law. The Act requires employers to provide paid leave for some employees related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, among other measures. The leave provisions of the Act take effect no later than 15 days after it is signed by the president.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources for EmployersAs the number of reported cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to rise, employers are increasingly confronted with the possibility of an outbreak in the workplace.

Employers are obligated to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, but are also subject to a number of legal requirements protecting workers. This Compliance Bulletin linked below provides a summary of the compliance issues facing employers in this type of situation.

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There are a number of steps that employers can take to address the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace. In addition to reviewing the compliance concerns outlined in this Compliance Bulletin, employers should:

  • Closely monitor the CDC, WHO, and state and local public health department websites for information on the status of the Coronavirus.
  • Proactively educate their employees on what is known about the virus, including its transmission and prevention.
  • Establish a written communicable illness policy and response plan that covers communicable diseases readily transmitted in the workplace.
  • Consider measures that can help prevent the spread of illness, such as allowing employees flexible work options like working from home. are

Coronavirus: Key Concerns for EmployersAs concern about coronavirus – the upper-respiratory infection that was first diagnosed in humans in Wuhan, China in late 2019, and has spread to the United States in recent days – grows worldwide, employers face a series of questions regarding the impact the virus will have on the workplace.

What Must Employers Do to Maintain a Safe Workplace?

U.S. employers may have concerns about compliance with workplace safety laws, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Under OSHA, workers have the right to working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm; to receive information and training about workplace hazards; and to exercise their rights without retaliation, among others. To that end, employers should continue to monitor the development of the coronavirus and analyze whether employees could be at actual risk of exposure.

Employers may refer to OSHA’s Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic. While not written to address coronavirus in particular, this guidance does provide steps employers can take to address public health crises. OSHA has also aggregated its resources relating directly to coronavirus, and will continue to update its guidance as conditions evolve.

Given that employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for employees, employers should take some basic steps to help prevent the spread of disease and keep employees healthy:

  • Educating employees on the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus and the precautions that can be taken to minimize the risk of contracting the virus. At this time, the CDC believes symptoms appear within two to fourteen days after exposure, with some infected individuals showing little to no signs.
  • Providing hand sanitizer and hand washing stations, flu masks and facial tissues; encouraging employees to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched objects and surfaces.
  • Minimizing unnecessary meetings and visitors, and assessing the risks of exposure by identifying workers who may have recently traveled to, come in direct contact with, or are scheduled to go to Wuhan City, and the Hubei Province in China.
  • Implementing and/or evaluating workplace emergency response protocols.
  • Implementing travel guidelines and procedures for approvals for travel to China.
  • Allowing sick employees to work from home or take leave as appropriate.

 

Some employee concerns will be reasonably based and consistent with guidance from the World Health Organization, CDC, and OSHA; other concerns may be driven by unfounded fear or speculation. Employers should continue to monitor the information and recommendations from the CDC, OSHA, the State Department, along with information from other federal, state, and local government agencies involved in the response.

Update 3/12/220: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released guidance to help employers prepare their workplaces for an outbreak of COVID-19 — along with a reminder that any incidents of employees contracting the novel coronavirus at work are recordable illnesses, subject to the same rules and failure-to-record fines as other workplace injuries and illnesses.

NAPLES, FL (November 5, 2019) – Gulfshore Insurance Inc. has announced its BerniePortalpartnership with BerniePortal – a state-of-the-art software platform that combines benefits expertise with modern HR and Benefits technology. Through the technology, Gulfshore will be able to take the full HR management process online, making everything from onboarding to benefits administration intuitive and efficient.

“BerniePortal is an online benefits administration tool that we are providing to our clients at no cost. Typically, systems like this charge a per-member, per-month fee, and there is a lengthy setup timeframe. BerniePortal is different,” said Heather MacDougall, Chief Administrative Officer. “It provides a secure method for data collection through a simple and user-friendly interface from the perspective of the Administrator and the Employee. As a web-based program, it is compatible with any device that has an internet connection. We set up and maintain everything for you and will teach you how to use it.”

Nashville-based Bernard Health offers BerniePortal, a unique all-in-one online HR platform, to help small and medium-sized employers solve the transactional challenges of HR. For more information, you can visit www.bernieportal.com.

 

On March 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its long awaited proposed rule to amend current overtime regulations. Specifically, the proposed rule would raise the minimum salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) “white collar” exemption to $35,308 per year ($679 per week). The proposal does not call for automatic adjustments to the salary threshold; however, it does propose updates to the salary threshold every four years.

Currently, employees with a salary below $455 per week ($23,660 annually) must be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week. Employees making at least this salary level may be eligible for overtime based on their job duties. This salary level was set in 2004.

Full information about the proposed rule is available here.

Next Steps

The public will now have 60 days to submit comments about the proposed rule electronically at www.regulations.gov. The DOL will take time to review submitted comments and an effective date for the final rule is not expected until 2020.

Gulfshore Insurance will continue to monitor any updates to the FLSA exemption rules and provide updates as they become available.