With so many businesses temporarily closing or allowing employees to work from home due to COVID-19, there’s a lot of pressure on your payroll department.
First, it has to watch out for fraud, such as phishing emails appearing to come from someone high up in the company with an urgent request for confidential employee info. Remind Payroll not to take the bait.
Second, with employees facing uncertainty, those who have been resisting signing up for direct deposit may finally say yes – if Payroll asks. (If staffers have time, it doesn’t hurt to do so.)
Third, your staff has to know exactly what the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) says about paying employees when faced with issues like partial workweeks, employees who have no paid time off available and/or expenses incurred for home office supplies.
Navigating the challenges
The Dept. of Labor recently released a Q&A on COVID-19. Here’s what you’ll want to share with Payroll:
Closed! If the office is closed for a full or partial week, nonexempt employees need to be paid only for time they actually worked. As for exempt employees, if they work even part of a week, they must be paid their full salary. Otherwise, they don’t need to be paid for that week.
Paid time off available? At least one state (Colorado) has passed an emergency rule requiring immediate temporary paid sick leave for certain employees. (This topic is also being addressed on the federal level.) If exempt employees use paid time off, that can count toward their full weekly salary. But if there’s someone without any leave available, that person’s pay can’t be docked.
Expenses incurred while working from home add up. Companies can require employees to work from home or otherwise telework. And with some states imposing quarantines during the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies have gone that direction.
Just make sure Payroll is aware of the FLSA implications. Namely, nonexempt employees must earn minimum wage and time-and-a-half for overtime when business expenses are factored in. So, for example, your staff should keep tabs on the cost of internet access, electricity usage, computers and phones.