COVID-19 & Employment Issues - February Update

Now that we have been dealing with COVID-19 for almost a year, mask wearing and social distancing has become old hat, but many employment related issues continue to evolve and change.

First, as of the beginning of this year, Employers are no longer required to pay employees who must miss work because they have either contracted COVID or are subject to a quarantine order. For the majority of 2020, Employees who contracted COVID were entitled to two weeks of paid time off in addition to any other vacation and/or sick time they might have had. The government used tax credits to reimburse Employers for this expense. At the time of  this publication, these paid two weeks off are not a requirement but are still an option for Employers. The government tax credit remains in effect for Employers who choose to continue making the paid two weeks available to Employees.  

Second, unemployment continues to change. Currently, individuals who are still out of work and receiving unemployment benefits may qualify for an additional $300.00 weekly as a federal benefit. This benefit is set to expire on March 13, 2021. The current proposal in the House would provide an additional $400.00 in federal benefits to qualifying individuals through August 29, 2020.

In North Carolina, the maximum amount an unemployed person can receive in regular benefits is $350.00 per week. The $300-$400 in federal money is additional. In North Carolina, regular state unemployment benefits last for 12 weeks. If these 12 weeks have been exhausted, unemployed individuals may continue to apply for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (“PEUC”) for up to an additional 24 weeks of benefits. PEUC is currently set to expire on March 14, 2021.  It is likely that PEUC will be extended through August at some point between now and March 14, 2021.

Finally, many Employers are wondering what to do about vaccinations. Some have decided to require vaccinations, and some have not. There are a lot of factors that go into making this decision including the type of work performed and how many members of the public employees regularly interact with. While the state and local governments have issued some guidance on this issue, Employers are free to make this decision on their own. Employees who have a disability or who have a legitimate religious reason for exemption, may be able to be excused from the vaccine requirement or may have accommodations made for them, such as being less public facing.

If you have any questions about any of these issues, please feel free to give us a call.