The more things change, the more they stay the same … in 2021 business owners should continue to monitor COVID legislation and guidelines in order to provide a safe and fair workplace for employees. Just a few of the things that should be on the 2021 radar:
- The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Non-Profits, and Venues Act, signed by the President on December 27, did not extend the mandatory paid leave for qualifying COVID-related reasons. However, employers may voluntarily provide paid leave and take a payroll tax credit through March 31, 2021, for the unused portion of COVID leave that was available to an employee as of December 31. Employers who opt to voluntarily provide paid COVID leave should be consistent in making this benefit available to all eligible employees.
- The Act also:
- extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) through June 30, 2021, and increased the amount of the tax credit to 70% of “qualified wages” up to $10,000 per employee per calendar quarter in 2021;
- expands eligibility by reducing the threshold for the decline in gross receipts to qualify as an “eligible employer” to 20%; and
- allows businesses that obtained Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans to claim the ERTC on eligible wages not used to support PPP loan forgiveness.
- Business owners should continue following recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that help provide a safe work environment for employees and customers such as allowing employees to work remotely whenever possible, enforcing social distancing and mask regulations, as well as sanitizing the workplace regularly.
- As new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus are reported and COVID cases surge, business owners should decide whether to require employees to get vaccinated when COVID vaccines become available to the general public.
- Businesses that require employees to be vaccinated should have a written policy that provides exceptions for those who cannot be vaccinated due to disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs.
- Employees with a legitimate reason not to be vaccinated may be required to wear masks in the workplace and, if they refuse to do so, the employer, after engaging in an interactive process with the employee to find a reasonable accommodation, has the option to terminate employment due to failure to comply with company policy.
- Monitor yourself and your employees for COVID-related stress and/or depression. The pandemic has impacted all of us in so many ways. We are dealing with the illness and, in some cases death, of family and friends; economic impact from job loss or reduction; parents juggling home-schooling for their children with work responsibilities; reduced social interaction and increased feelings of isolation due to COVID restrictions; etc.
- Hold employees (and yourself!) accountable for workplace conduct but also be aware of the need for additional support during this difficult time. Demonstrate care and concern but remember that, as an employer, your role is not to be a caregiver, psychologist or social worker for employees. Encourage people to seek professional help from health and wellness providers available through insurance plans and community organizations.
An HR professional can help you with all of your human resources needs. From hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, and so much more, Next Level Solutions can work with you to provide the services that you need to run your business.