How do business owners encourage employees to return to work once the “stay-at-home” order is rescinded? In many cases, staying at home and collecting unemployment benefits may seem like a better deal to employees than returning to work and collecting regular wages. Although enhanced unemployment benefits ($600 per week) provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act will end on July 31, some employees may be hesitant to return to work before then.
Business owners should document the rehire (return to work) offer, providing information about safety measures (social distancing, face masks, gloves, increased cleaning, etc.) and changes to work schedules if necessary. In addition, employers should explain that employees may lose their eligibility for unemployment benefits if they refuse to return to work. From the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) website:
“Refusal of work and failure to complete work searches can disqualify individuals from all claims, including regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. A disqualification will result in no further payments including the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.”
LWC will provide guidance on reporting work refusal when the “stay-at-home” order ends. In the meantime, employers may complete a Separation Notice stating that the employee refused the offer of employment (considered a voluntary resignation); LWC will review these documents when the dust settles on unemployment claims and may require the employee to return overpayments in benefits.
If the company has received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds, it is also important to have written documentation of the rehire offer and the refusal. This documentation will be necessary when applying for loan forgiveness. Once an employer has made good faith efforts to rehire employees, then new people may be hired to fill these vacancies in order to satisfy the employee headcount requirement for PPP loan forgiveness.