Coronavirus Q&A: What do Employers Have to Pay For Under the New Guidelines?

If I have to temporarily close my business, do I have to pay my employees during this time?

Not generally, but here are the rules:

  • Nonexempt hourly employees do not have to be paid during business closures provided they don’t perform any work at all during the closure period. If they work during that time, you must pay them for the hours they clock in.
  • Exempt employees do not have to be paid for any payroll week in which they perform NO WORK AT ALL. If they work any portion of a week, however, they must be paid for the whole week.

Employers should communicate with all their employees through written policy what their expectations and policies are and should be particularly clear about what happens when no work is performed during the closure.

Although employers are not required to pay employees during a closure, many employers are electing to do so for short-term closures. Employers hope these policies will encourage employees to be forthcoming about their symptoms should they get sick so they don’t come to work sick because they need the pay check.

If you have the capability of maintaining work hours in the coming weeks, even if it means creating special projects, I strongly suggest you set up telecommuting opportunities for your whole staff.

Do I have to pay employees who are sent home sick for that day?

For an hourly worker – No. The employees can use their accrued paid sick leave or other PTO / Vacation leave available.

For a salaried employee – Yes. If salaried employees work for part of that day and are sent home, they must be paid for the entire day.

Can I convert my salaried employees to an hourly wage?

Yes, assuming they do not have an employment contract. But it’s all or nothing. You must convert all your exempt employees, not just some of them.

The conversion from salaried to hourly work should occur at the start of the new pay period or work week, and the exempt employees must be notified in writing before the change occurs.

Once they are converted to hourly work, the newly minted nonexempt employees must make at least minimum wage and be paid for all overtime hours they clock. The state of Arizona defines overtime as any time worked over 40 hours in one work week.

Can an employer withdraw an offer of employment if the applicant has Coronavirus or symptoms of the disease?

Yes. The EEOC (based on current CDC guidance) states that the employer can withdraw an offer of employment for this reason because the new employee cannot safely enter the workplace.

Will Workers Compensation cover illness caused by the Coronavirus if the employee is exposed to the virus on the job?

There is conflicting information on this question. To date, it remains uncertain whether contracting Coronavirus at work will be considered a compensable occupational illness (health care workers or first responders are excluded). The issue is that, to be awarded Workers Comp for the disease cause by the Coronavirus, the employee must prove and document how they contracted the virus through their work environment. In other words, there would have to be no question whatsoever that the employee contracted the virus through work activities and not elsewhere.

Can I do more than the guidelines suggest?

Yes, of course. As the employer and business owner, you can amend your leave policies in favor of your employees at any time—but make sure you inform all of your employees in writing about such changes.

For example, perhaps because of the unique circumstances surrounding Coronavirus you decide to provide the full amount of leave for the year up front instead of accruing it throughout the year. Maybe you add a few extra days of leave. Whatever your adjustment, be sure to indicate in your written statement that this is a temporary change due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and include an end date for the new policy.

Where do I turn for information?

During this time, when so many of us feel like we have little control, reviewing your policies and procedures puts some control back in your hands. Do you have any questions about the letter or spirit of the new guidelines? We are here to help. Structure for Success – your HR resource.