More than half of the states have started to lift restrictions to re-open businesses or have similar plans to re-open in the next few weeks.
This mass re-opening, coupled with the fact that some employees at home are making more via unemployment benefits than their regular pay, presents a difficult challenge for many employers: How to successfully return workers back to the workplace?
Since mid-March, new unemployment claims have skyrocketed, and as of mid-May, over 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment as the economy continues to experience the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act ("CARES Act") expanded unemployment benefits by creating several provisions providing unemployment insurance coverage and benefits to individuals impacted by COVID-19. The new benefits include federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation ("PUC"). PUC is an additional $600 per week for up to four months through July 31, 2020, for those individuals that qualify for regular unemployment compensation. For example, in North Carolina, individuals eligible for regular state unemployment benefits ($350 max per week) could receive up to $950 per week ($350 max in state benefits + $600 in PUC).
The additional federal funding in unemployment has provided much needed income for recent unemployed individuals, including those workers on partial unemployment due to a reduction in hours or rate of pay. But these expanded benefits have also produced unintended results as some individuals make more from collecting unemployment benefits than if they were to return to work. Furthering employees' resistance to return to work is the uncertainty surrounding employers' ability to provide safe workplaces to prevent or mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 among employees. Thus, employers are now asking what, if anything, can be done to incentivize workers to return to the workplace.
Prior to offering monetary incentives to employees, employers should consider the following two cost-effective strategies.
STRATEGY 1: EDUCATE EMPLOYEES ON UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD.
An individual can refuse work and still receive unemployment benefits under the CARES Act for certain reasons such as being ill or caring for a family member that is ill. In addition, under certain circumstances, individuals may initially refuse a recall to work if they reasonably believe they are in imminent danger of being infected by COVID-19, or if a...