March 24: Intro to FFCRA, Furlough Questions, and Remote Worker Resources
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
While these are by no means a complete list of all the questions I’ve been getting, It’s a summary of the ones I’m getting the most. Also, if you call me and I don’t get your call, please call again. Also if you call and I’m on the phone with someone else, and I don’t get back to you within an hour, please call again. I’m doing my best, but sometimes I’m three calls deep at the same time and it’s getting a little hard to keep track of who I owe call backs to. What’s up with this FFCRA thing I keep hearing about? Although we posted it already, you should have just received a summary from NECA National on what the Family First Coronavirus Relief Act. There’s an overview and a FAQ for you to do a deep dive if you like. Unfortunately, although it will give you an idea of what’s coming, you will end up having far more questions than answers. When we finally get those answers, we will do a very in depth breakdown on its implications for you and your business.
In brief however, this Act provides for a method whereby employers will be able to extend two existing federally mandated benefits, the Family Medical Leave Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, to those adversely effected by the Coronavirus at the US Government’s expense.
If that makes you ask some questions in your mind, you’re not alone. We are waiting for the details to come down from the Department of Labor and NECA National is actively involved in trying to make sure its not too onerous and costly to comply with. More Furlough Questions
Do you HAVE to furlough people? Short answer: No. Long answer: I think there has been some confusion about the term furlough…and with good reason. NDERA talks about how people can be sent home and required to provide a doctor’s note before returning to work if they have been exposed or exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Then it talks about how you can’t take adverse action against an employee for refusing to work in an area they legitimately believe to be dangerous due to possible infection and THEN it talks about how you can furlough someone due to a lack of work because your customer has shut down. The first situation describes a sick leave. The second…well, I don’t know if we have a word for what it describes, but I don’t think it can be called a furlough. The third is the one that is actually a furlough. The reason why this is important is that the first two you have to grant and are protected. The third is entirely up to you. You decide whether or not you want to grant someone a furlough due to a lack of work. There is no requirement that you do so and you can certainly offer it to some and not to others. It's entirely at your discretion.
As an update for you 725 employers, I’m being told that no one has asked for a furlough yet. I won’t commit to writing why I think this might be, but you can guess. Here is what I will say though, if any of your furloughed folks are refused the opportunity to sign the book in order to pursue temporary (short call) employment, you should inform me immediately.
One final edit on this subject. Does NDERA apply to Apprentices? YES. It applies to ALL employees. Employees electing to stay home.
After the Governor’s Executive Order, a number of BA’s contacted me saying they got a lot of calls from people urging them to order people off jobs. They said they would not (could not) do such a thing, but warned of a large number of people not showing up to work today. After following up this morning, it doesn’t appear to be the case. Lots of people might want to be ordered to go home, but aren’t willing to drag up on their own just yet. Interestingly enough, this isn’t isolated to your field employees.
I don’t just get calls from the principals of each company. I try to be very discreet about such calls, but I always make it clear that while I am a resource to all NECA member company employees, I won’t divulge information or give advice which could negatively impact their employer.
Yesterday, I got a lot of those types of calls.
Here’s what I will say on the subject. I think there are a lot of scared people out there who are wanting to protect their families, but they are asking if their work can be done from home if possible and if NECA has any guidance on it.
Different companies will have different capabilities to do this obviously, but I do think some consideration for accommodation should at least be discussed. It will also vary quite a bit by their work function and what resources they can bring home with them to perform those functions. Either way, what I can tell you is that it does require a different set of management skills and methods to run your business that way.
For right now, I’ll link some resources I found online. We will be posting more thoroughly reviewed resources that are more curated to our industry as soon as we can.