Managing Leave During COVID-19 | Part 1

Posted by Rebecca Scott on Apr 28, 2020 9:15:00 AM

Leave managers discussing how to manage leave during COVID19

The global health pandemic caused by COVID-19 has affected everyone's lives and professional workplaces. This time has brought about much chaos and extra work, especially for employers and leave case managers who are trying to manage leaves and stay on top of their workload. 

During this pandemic, leave management is especially stressful because leave laws are changing and many leave case managers are seeing an increase in leave requests from their employees (leave managers should be aware that company closures due to the pandemic may not be counted against legislated leave entitlements). For this reason, it’s more important than ever before to have a system in place. Whether you’re managing leaves for front-line healthcare workers or employees who are able to work from home, we want to help address these concerns.

In part one of this blog series, we’ll explore the importance of cloud-based leave management technology, what our parent company, Presagia is doing to help employers manage leave compliantly, and other resources we think might be helpful to employers during this time. 

The Importance of Cloud-Based Leave Management Technology 

With many organizations shifting to remote work, cloud-based solutions are increasingly necessary, and leave management is no exception. Additionally, with leave laws constantly changing in response to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to have a system in place to remain compliant and ensure that employees are taken care of. The current situation also has employers seeing an increase in leave requests, resulting in the need to ease administrative burden. If you’re not yet in the cloud with your leave management program, now’s the time! 

Even in the best of times, the core of any successful leave management program is the glue that holds it all together: the leave case management system. Robust leave technology reduces your administrative burden (i.e. handle eligibility calculations, track entitlement usage, fill-in leave notices, and more) so leave case managers can focus on other tasks. It’s also kept up-to-date with the latest leave laws, saving you a huge amount of time usually spent sifting through complicated leave law summaries.

Here are some important features to look out for in leave management technology: 

  • Cloud-Based: Now more than ever, you’ll want a leave case management system that allows you to manage leaves from a distance. This way, you can access and manage leave anywhere, anytime, from the comfort of your own home.
  • Secure: Having documents in a secure, centralized environment means your sensitive information is kept confidential and secure. This is extremely important since many leave case managers are working remotely during the pandemic. With a cloud-based solution that utilizes role and group based security, like Presagia Leave, you never have to worry! They also proudly support HIPAA compliance!  
  • Compliant: Leave laws are in a constant state of flux and new ones like the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) are being enacted in response to COVID-19. You’ll want to make sure your system is kept up-to-date with new leave legislation and changes made to existing leave legislation
  • Seamless Integration: Your leave case management system should seamlessly integrate with other systems such as your human resource information system (HRIS), time and attendance and/or payroll systems to reduce double data entry - you already have enough on your plate right now! 
  • Customizable and Configurable: If your company has its own leave policies, you’ll want a solution that supports configuration to include your company’s unique leave policies and allows you to tailor the system to meet your needs. 
  • Distinguishing the Type of Leave: Whether it’s leave for the FMLA, state leave, military leave, or more recently for COVID-19, your leave management system should be able to distinguish and provide guidance on the various types of leaves that apply to your employees, which can help you identify organizational trends.

In this uncertain time, we know employers are looking for guidance on leave laws, but may not have the time or budget to implement a full leave management solution like Presagia Leave. Solutions like Leave Genius can help! Leave Genius is a powerful web app that leverages Presagia's Absence Compliance Engine to assist employers with the navigating federal, state and local leaves that apply to an employee's request for leave.  

How Presagia is Managing COVID-19

Our parent company, Presagia, is constantly updating their Absence Compliance Engine with new and changing leave laws and have taken steps to respond to COVID-19. 

To help you gain an understanding of recent changes, the following are the new leave policies they've added to their solutions (including Leave Genius) in response to COVID-19. 

Please note that Presagia manages the leave components of these policies, not the pay component. It's expected that a client's payroll or other systems manages the paid portion.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The FFCRA was introduced by the U.S. federal government in response to COVID-19 and consists of two components (both of which are reflected in the Presagia system). The first component is an extension of the FMLA, entitled the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires eligible employers to provide 12 weeks of job-protected, partially paid leave to employees who have been employed for at least 30 days. Private-sector employers with fewer than 500 employees and all public-sector employers are considered eligible employers under this component. 

Under this part of the Act, qualifying reasons for employees’ leave are being unable to work from home or telework because they need to care for a child because their school is closed or their child’s care provider isn’t available due to the pandemic. 

Employees are first provided with 10 unpaid days of leave but have the option of using paid leave that has been accrued (vacation, personal, or sick leave) during this time. After the first segment of unpaid FMLA leave, the remaining FMLA leave must be paid at a rate of two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate.

The second component of the FFCRA is the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Under this component, eligible employers (i.e. public agencies, private sector employers with less than 500 employees, organizations that aren’t a private entity and anyone who is acting indirectly or directly in the interests of the employer) are required to provide employees two weeks of paid sick leave. 

Under this part of the Act, qualifying reasons for employees’ leave can be any of the following related to COVID-19: 

  • Quarantine/self-isolation in compliance with an order from the federal, state or local level, as advised from a health care provider.
  • Seeking a medical diagnosis (experiencing symptoms of the virus).
  • Caring for an individual in self-isolation (symptoms or diagnosed with the virus).
  • Caring for a child whose school/provider is unavailable.
  • Experiencing conditions as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid leave at their regular rate of pay, however if they are caring for a family member they are entitled to two-thirds of their regular rate. Part-time employees are entitled to the average number of hours the employee works over a two week period. 

General Pandemic Leave Policy

Presagia has created a general emergency pandemic leave (non-legislated, discretionary company) policy in their system as a best practice for their clients who wish to allocate an employee’s time away from work due to the current pandemic. This is particularly useful for when there isn’t any coverage available under federal, state, or company leave policies and still allows for time tracking and reporting on the impact the pandemic has had on their business.

State-Specific COVID-19 Leave Laws

In addition to the general pandemic leave policy and FFCRA, Presagia has also included state-specific leave laws related to COVID-19 for both New York and Oregon. 

New York expanded the New York Paid Family Leave in response to COVID-19. This policy applies to employers with four or more employees. Eligible employees are allowed to take this leave for the following reasons:

  • To care for a family member who has contracted COVID-19.
  • For a minor child who is under mandatory quarantine (issued by the State of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity).
  • If they are under a mandatory quarantine/isolation (not available if the employee is able to work remotely) issued by the state of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity.  

New York also added the New York Sick Leave (for public and private employers), which provides up to 14 days of paid leave. Under this policy, entitlement to the paid portion is dependent on employer size and/or revenue: 

  • Employers with less than 10 employees and with a net income of less than or equal to $1 million are not required to provide paid sick leave. 
  • Employers with 1-10 employees who have a net income of over $1 million must provide their employees with at least five paid sick days. 
  • Employers with 11-99 employees must also provide their employees with five paid sick days. 
  • Employers with 100 or more employees must provide at least 14 paid sick days.
  • Public employers of any size must provide at least 14 paid sick days.

Eligible employees are allowed to take this leave for themselves or because they need to care for a minor dependent child who is under a mandatory quarantine/isolation due to COVID-19. 

Presagia Leave tracks both the paid and unpaid leave portions of this leave policy. 

Oregon has temporarily expanded (until September 13, 2020) the qualifying conditions for the Oregon Family Leave Act in response to COVID-19. This policy applies to employers with 25 or more employees and now includes public health emergency as a qualifying leave reason. Eligible employees may take this leave for:

  • A child whose school closed due to a public emergency by a public health official (whether or not the child is sick). 

Presagia Leave will guide leave case managers through collecting supporting documents, automatically calculate eligibility and entitlement, and enable tracking and reporting on the employee’s leave for all of the leaves mentioned above. They will also be implementing new leave laws in relation to COVID-19 for D.C. and New Jersey.

Leave Genius will also be implementing new leave laws for Colorado, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and San Jose.

Other Resources to Help Employers

Things are changing rapidly everyday, and this is especially true for leave laws. While your leave case management system should be up-to-date on the changes made to existing leave laws and new leave laws going into effect, it’s important as a leave case manager to also stay in the loop about proposed and upcoming changes to the leave law landscape.

Here are a few resources we think are helpful for you stay in the know:

While this time is extremely stressful, it’s also crucial to be staying on top of leaves, with the right technology in place! Stay tuned for part two of this blog series, where we’ll explore other tips and tricks to help you manage leave during COVID-19. 

Leave Genius is closely monitoring the legal and business landscape to ensure the highest state of readiness to respond to any legislation changes enacted or other proposals now and on the horizon.

Topics: FMLA, Leave Management, Paid Sick Leave, Compliance, Paid Family Leave, DOL, COVID19

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