We are here for you.
As we all grapple with the effects Covid-19 has wrought on our businesses, communities, economies and families, we want to offer you any help we can. The information below is a combination of coronavirus topics we’ve covered in our webinars, sent out in communications to our clients, and posted on our social media channels. We hope you find it useful, and we hope it can ease some of your worries.
Our team is here to help you get through this. While many of us are working from home, we are still only a phone call away. Please call your OneGroup representative or our general line at 800-268-1830 to talk to us about the issues you are facing.
Take care and stay healthy. We will all get through this together.
Will property insurance or business interruption coverage help?
Business interruption coverage would require a direct physical loss or damage to the insured property. Most of the business losses we have been discussing this week will likely be the result of a general decline in economic activity; not an actual physical damage or loss to the property. Some carriers also reference separate sub-limits within their coverage forms for event cancellation, civil authority, and contingent business interruption for disruption within the supply chain, however coverage would need to be triggered by a “covered cause of loss.”
We received notice from The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers late yesterday that there is a proposal from House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters that outlines the creation of a federal program modeled directly after the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which would mandate the prospective offer of pandemic Business Interruption coverage with federal backing. We will continue to update you as news emerges. (3/19 webinar topic)
Is Covid-19 covered under workers’ compensation?
For an injury or occupational disease to be covered by a workers’ compensation policy, the loss to the employee must have arisen from the course of employment, which may be difficult to determine in the event of a virus outbreak. Infectious diseases (like Covid-19 and the common cold) are not typically found to be work-related. Medical evidence that the injury or illness was work-related must be presented to establish compensability.
However, those who have travelled on business into infected areas, or those stationed permanently or semi-permanently in high-risk areas would be the most likely to make convincing cases for workers’ compensation. Healthcare providers who contract the disease may be eligible as well, as the increased risk of contracting an infectious disease may establish medical evidence for workers’ compensation.
Please note: the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board has closed many of its offices due to the Covid-19 virus. The board is providing employers and injured workers with virtual hearings to ensure there are no delays in moving hearings along. (3/19 webinar topic)
Workers’ compensation hearings being held virtually
New York State’s Workers’ Compensation Board announced today that they will now be using the Board’s Virtual Hearing service to conduct workers’ compensation hearings, and will be temporarily closing some offices.
“Virtual Hearings allow injured workers, attorneys/representatives, witnesses and other participants to attend workers’ compensation hearings remotely using a computer or mobile device,” the release said.
Please follow this link to learn more: http://www.wcb.ny.gov/ (3/16 social media announcement)
Information for restaurants offering delivery or take-out for the first time
As restaurant operations are curtailed to delivery or take-out only, many establishment owners are offering delivery service for the first time.
If you have changed your business operations, please let OneGroup know so we can help you. If you are offering these services for the first time, we will review your policy to ensure any potential new exposures are covered by your existing policy.
Please consult your OneGroup representative to help you navigate the change in your operations throughout the COVID-19 crisis. (3/18 client email and social media announcement)
Please keep your OneGroup team informed of any shifts or changes in exposure as we move through this crisis together. We want to make sure that the programs we have in place for you are modified if and when necessary. We encourage you to communicate with us frequently. We are standing by to assist in any way possible. We are here for you. (3/19 webinar topic)
What can we use to clean and disinfect an area after a possible exposure?
The EPA has published a list of cleaning products that are effective against the Coronavirus. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Can animals become infected and transmit the virus?
Per the CDC, “there is no evidence that suggests that companion animals, including pets, can spread Covid-19.” “CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.” (3/19 webinar topic)
Can the COVID-19 virus spread through drinking water?
The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19. (3/19 webinar topic)
How long is the incubation period for Covid-19?
The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data become available.
Remember that the virus can live up to three hours in the air, up to three days on plastic and stainless steel, and up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces. (3/19 webinar topic)
OSHA has published a variety of guidance documents that we have found helpful. Check them out here: https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus (3/19)
If my business is determined to be an “Essential Business” are all employees permitted to work at the business location?
No. Only those employees that are needed to provide the products and services that are essential to provide such products or services are permitted to work at the business location. In addition, Essential Businesses are still required to utilize telecommuting or work from home procedures to the maximum extent possible. Those employees who do report to work must adhere to the requirements set forth in the Department of Health guidelines, which can be found at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
What if my business is not essential, but a person must pick up the mail or perform a similar routine function each day?
A single person attending a non-essential closed business temporarily to perform a specific task is permitted so long as they will not be in contact with other people.
https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ESD_EssentialEmployerFAQ_032220.pdf (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Should my employees file for UC or should they use paid leave? (Pennsylvania)
Employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to work with their employers to first exhaust any paid leave that is available. Paid leave is typically available immediately and pays the employee at a higher rate than UC, which may take two to four weeks to receive and may replace only 50 to 70% of typical pay.
Employees who do not have access to paid leave, or have exhausted their paid leave, may be eligible for UC. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Will my UC tax rate increase if my employees file for benefits? (Pennsylvania)
No, contributory businesses who are temporarily closed due to COVID-19 will be granted Relief From Charges, and your tax rate will not be increased because of COVID-19-related claims. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Can my employees file for UC benefits if I tell them to stay home because I think they are at risk of spreading or at risk of contracting COVID-19? (Pennsylvania)
Your employees should first use paid sick leave or paid time off; however, if they are not receiving paid time off, they may be eligible for UC benefits. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Can my employees file for UC benefits if I reduce their hours because of COVID-19? (Pennsylvania)
Yes. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Can my employees file for UC benefits if they are told to isolate or quarantine? (Pennsylvania)
Your employees should first use paid sick leave or paid time off. However, if they are not receiving paid time off, they may be eligible for UC benefits. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Can I file a claim if I lost my full-time work, but still work part-time? (New York)
Yes, if you work less than four days in a week and earn $504 or less, you may receive partial benefits. As always, NY will determine eligibility. When you file your UI claim:
- You will be asked to enter the date of your last day worked. Enter the last day you physically reported to work, regardless of whether this was your part-time or full-time work.
- You will also be asked to enter information about your last or most recent employer. The last or most recent employer is where you most recently reported to work, regardless of whether this was your part-time or full-time employer. If it was your part-time employer, and you will continue to work part-time, enter “lack of work” as the reason for separation.
https://labor.ny.gov/ui/claimantinfo/beforeyouapplyfaq.shtm#12 (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Can workers apply for partial unemployment?
Yes, if you work less than four days in a week and earn $504 or less, you may receive partial benefits. When you file your UI claim:
- You will be asked to enter the date of your last day worked. Enter the last day you physically reported to work, regardless of whether this was your part-time or full-time work.
- You will also be asked to enter information about your last or most recent employer. The last or most recent employer is where you most recently reported to work, regardless of whether this was your part-time or full-time employer. If it was your part-time employer, and you will continue to work part-time, enter “lack of work” as the reason for separation. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
What is the difference between a layoff and a furlough?
Generally, a furlough applies in a short-term situation, with a defined time period. When an employer furloughs its employees, it requires them to work fewer hours or to take a certain amount of unpaid time off. Generally, the difference between this and a layoff is that a layoff is a temporary separation from payroll, while a furlough keeps these employees on the payroll. When separated from payroll, you would follow your typical separation procedures, including paying out any unused PTO (if this is part of your current practice), and offering COBRA. Please note, generally, if employees are left on the payroll but removed from the work schedule, they would still be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Are NY State employees of non-essential businesses, who cannot work remotely, eligible to receive the COVID-19 NYS sick day benefits right now?
COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave in NY covers if you or your minor child are under an order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine issued by the State, New York State Department of Health, local Board of Health, or other authorized government entity. In this scenario, you may be eligible for job-protected sick leave and compensation through a combination of disability and paid family leave benefit. If you are quarantined but are working from home you do not qualify for these benefits. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Can my employer require me to use my existing sick leave accruals or other accruals (paid time off) for a COVID-19 quarantine order?
No. Employers required to provide paid sick leave must provide that leave separate from any accruals. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Do I have to apply for COVID-19 quarantine leave?
You do not have to apply for paid sick days if your employer is required to offer them. If you run out of sick days from your employer, then you would need to apply for Paid Family Leave and disability benefits for compensation during the rest of your quarantine. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
What if I independently decide to quarantine – can I take COVID-19 quarantine leave?
This new law provides benefits in cases where an individual is under an order of quarantine – either mandatory or precautionary. Entities that may issue an “order” include the State of New York, New York State Department of Health, local Board of Health or any government entity authorized to issue such order. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
What if my employer temporarily closes or goes out of business because of COVID-19?
You may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance. For more information or to apply online, visit the NYS Department of Labor website. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
When will I get paid for the disability benefit and Paid Family Leave portion of my quarantine leave?
Your employer’s insurance carrier must pay or deny benefits within 18 calendar days of receiving your completed request for benefits. To ensure timely payment, make sure you completely fill out the required forms and attach the order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
My child’s school is closed due to Coronavirus/COVID-19. Can I take Paid Family Leave/disability benefits quarantine leave to stay home with them?
It depends. If the school is closed due to a mandatory or precautionary quarantine or order of isolation issued by the State, department of health, local board of health, or government entity, you may be eligible to take paid family leave. If your child’s school closes for preventative social distancing, you may want to check with your employer to see if there are any benefits that may be available to you. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
I have been quarantined due to Coronavirus/COVID-19. Can I take Paid Family Leave/disability benefits quarantine leave for myself?
Yes, if you are under a mandatory or precautionary quarantine or order of isolation issued by the State, department of health, local board of health, or government entity, you may be eligible to take disability and Paid Family Leave benefits for yourself unless you are not showing symptoms and are physically able to work through remote access or similar means. You must use your available quarantine paid sick leave before taking Paid Family Leave and disability benefits, and then you can apply for these benefits for the remainder of your quarantine. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
I’m able to work from home but I’m under a mandatory or precautionary quarantine. Am I eligible for quarantine leave?
No, if you are not showing symptoms and are physically able to work through remote access or similar means you are not eligible for quarantine leave. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Under HR 6201, are the expanded FMLA benefits only available to those who can’t work (or telework) because their minor child’s school or childcare is closed? If you don’t have a child in that situation are you ineligible?
The additional job-protected family leave is available to employees to take care of a child under 18 years of age who is home because their school or daycare has been closed because of COVID-19. Paid sick leave (up to 80 hours) is available is an employee is unable to work based on additional reasons, specific to COVID-19. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Under NY State COVID-19 Paid Family Leave and Disability Benefits, does an employee need to be personally disabled with COVID-19 to receive the disability portion of the benefits?
COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave guarantees New York workers job protection and financial compensation while they are on a mandatory or precautionary quarantine (issued by the state of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19). Payments outside of paid leave provided by the employer will be made up of PFL/DBL. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Can employees claim benefits concurrently under both the expanded Federal FMLA and the NY State Paid Family Leave Act?
State benefits only apply if they would provide benefits to the employee in excess of what is available under federal law. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
I understand that companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from giving emergency paid sick leave, is that correct?
Federal: Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. More guidance is expected in April 2020.
NY: If you are a public employer, you must provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave.
If you had 10 or fewer employees as of January 1, 2020: If you are a private employer with one or more employees in employment, you already provide disability and Paid Family Leave benefits to your employees. This requirement has not changed with the new rules related to Coronavirus/COVID-19. Those insurance policies will provide compensation to employees who are on quarantine.
If you had between 11-99 employees or you are an employer with fewer than 10 employees as of January 1, 2020 and had an annual income greater than $1 million in 2019: You are required to provide employees with at least five days of paid sick leave while on quarantine. If your employees do not have more sick leave while on quarantine, you should help them apply with your Paid Family Leave and disability insurance carrier.
If you had 100 or more employees as of January 1, 2020: You are required to provide employees with 14 days of paid sick leave. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
And none of the new rules apply to employers whose employees can and are working from home, is that correct?
Correct; if employees are able to work remotely, they would generally not be eligible for the benefit. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
I have an employee that is staying home from work as she is the primary care giver of an adult child. She is using PTO initially. Can I limit employees to only use 2 weeks of PTO?
Presuming the child is 18 or older, we recommend to follow your typical policies, while allowing for flexibility due to the current environment. You can generally allow for PTO or unpaid time. If exempt, generally must be paid for full salary for any workweek in which work is performed. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
I read where employees are given additional PTO time if they have to quarantine and/or if the employment location has to be closed. Is this true?
If have to be quarantined, yes (Federal and NY provide benefits for this reason.)
If the employment location has to be closed, generally, no. If in doubt, generally, the PFL carrier would make the determination when a claim is filed. An employee can apply for unemployment insurance. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
If we are deemed essential, do our employees need letters/cards proving they work for us, allowing them to go to work?
I have not received any information regarding this; the liability appears to be on the business (at this time, we are not aware of how this is being enforced, however, there are fines associated with not following the orders.) (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Should I pay my exempt and non-exempt employees differently?
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):
Non-exempt employees (hourly), generally only need to be paid for the hours they actually worked.
Exempt employees (salary), generally need to be paid their full salary for any week in which they perform work. Usually no pay is required during weeks when no work is performed. If the employee performs work at all during the workweek, generally they are required to be paid their full salary. (3/19 webinar topic)
Can I require my employees to use Paid Time Off (PTO)?
Generally, if employers have paid time off policies in place, they can choose to require employees (both exempt and non-exempt) to use PTO when not working their typical schedule (and not on leave where mandating PTO is prohibited).
We do recommend to be consistent, and treat employees fairly; be aware of potential negatives with requiring the usage of PTO. (3/19 webinar topic)
When can someone file for unemployment insurance?
New York State and Pennsylvania are waiving the 7-day waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to COVID-19 closures or quarantines. (3/19 webinar topic)
Do I need to reduce my in-office workforce?
On Wednesday, 3/17, the Governor announced he will issue an executive order directing non-essential businesses to implement work-from-home policies effective Friday, March 20. Businesses that rely on in-office personnel must decrease their in-office workforce by 50 percent. The executive order exempts essential service industries, including shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions, and other industries critical to the supply chain.
This has now been updated to a 75% reduction. (3/19 webinar topic)
Federal Legislation: Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed on March 18, 2020 and has two main components: Emergency Paid Leave Under FMLA and Emergency Paid Sick Leave.
Emergency Paid Leave Under FMLA applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees.
- Provides up to 12 weeks of (unpaid and paid) leave when employees are unable to work because their child’s school or child care service is closed due to a public health emergency.
- Employees must be employed with the employer for at least 30 days to be eligible.
- Benefits are two-thirds of pay up to $200 per day.
- The first 10 days are unpaid (unless the employee substitutes other available time off).
Emergency Paid Sick Leave: An employer shall provide to each employee paid sick time to the extent that the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave because:
- The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described above.
- The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
This covers 80 hours for full-time employees, and a number of hours equal to the number of hours that such employee works, on average, over a 2-week period, for part-time employees. (3/19 webinar topic)
New York State Legislation
To address the immediate needs of employees affected by COVID-19 who are subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation, the Governor’s legislation will provide the following:
Protections for employees of private and public employers who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine related to COVID-19:
- For employees working for small employers (1-10 employees), employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 will receive unpaid sick days and the ability immediately to qualify for paid family leave and temporary disability benefits, plus full job protection.
- For employees working for medium sized employers (11-99 employees) and small employers (1-10 employees) with a net income of $1 million a year, employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 will receive five paid sick days and the ability immediately thereafter to qualify for paid family leave and temporary disability benefits, plus full job protection.
- For employees working for large employers (100 or more employees) and public employees, employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 will receive paid sick days for the entirety of the quarantine (up to 14 days), plus full job protection.
All employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 are given full job protection during time of absence. Employees will qualify for paid family leave to care for a minor dependent child who is subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. (3/19 webinar topic)
How can we keep our employees covered?
Many carriers (including those offering ancillary plans) are relaxing their eligibility policies, allowing those who are furloughed or with reduced hours to remain on their plans. Though premiums must still be paid on behalf of these participants, some carriers are also extending grace periods for payment. These attempts at relief are on a carrier to carrier basis.
For those organizations with New York state based employees, who will, or have terminated employees, the New York State of Health exchange has re-opened enrollment. This may be beneficial for participants who cannot afford COBRA and may now qualify for a premium tax credit with an exchange plan.
We will continue to release information as it becomes available, if you have any questions related to your plans or carriers please to reach out to us. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
What if my company shuts down, lays off/furloughs staff or reduces hours, causing them to not meet group or subscriber eligibility guidelines, laws or regulations?
Many carriers are allowing groups and subscribers that continue to make premium payments to remain on the plan and continue coverage. We recommend that you check with your consultant or broker for details as they do vary by carrier. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
What if we cannot pay premiums on time due to cash flow issues?
Many carriers are extending grace periods for payment. Check with your consultant or broker for further information. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
How can we help terminated employees who cannot afford COBRA?
For those living in New York, the New York State of Health exchange has re-opened enrollment. This may be beneficial for participants who cannot afford COBRA and may now qualify for a premium tax credit with an exchange plan. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Is Coronavirus covered by our health insurance plan?
In New York, the State Department of Financial Services is requiring that insurers waive the cost share associated with testing for the coronavirus. That means an in-network provider office visit, urgent care visit, or emergency room visit when the purpose of the visit is to be tested for coronavirus is covered by the plan at no-cost. This also applies to those with HDHPs or HSAs. IRS has issued guidance allowing the waiver of out-of-pocket coronavirus-related costs prior to deductibles being satisfied for those enrolled in high deductible health plans without jeopardizing their HSA eligibility.
Similar measures have been suggested in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We will keep you updated on those as we hear more.
Any treatment necessary for an individual who tests positive for Coronavirus will be covered at the normal cost share. (3/19 webinar topic)
What about telemedicine?
Some carriers are adding enhancements to their plans in response to the coronavirus crisis, and one of the more popular items is telemedicine. Some carriers are waiving the cost of telemedicine during the State of Emergency. Though this may be a great perk for many, we are still seeking clarification for those on HDHPs and if it will impact their HSA eligibility.
Telemedicine can be a great first step toward medical care, and can keep you out of the providers’ offices during this time of social distancing. However, please note that the normal wait time of less than 10 minutes has been replaced with waits up to 1-2 hours. One telemedicine vendor reported that it is now getting 100k calls per day, up from the normal 15k. (3/19 webinar topic)
In order to practice social distancing, we have provided you with a list of our insurance carriers and their information. Click here for the list.
What should I tell participants that are asking what to do with their allocation/401(k) accounts?
First, as a plan sponsor you should not give them financial advice. You should tell them to reach out to the financial advisor on the plan, but to put this pullback in a historical context, the S&P 500 is down 34% from its highs on February 19th. There have been 9 pullbacks of 20-40% since 1945. Average time to recovery is 15 months in those instances. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
How do I get you in front of my employees looking for help in times like this?
We have a number of ways and happy to work with the client or participant directly to help get them through this. Participants need advice that isn’t rooted in emotion rather fact. We have hosted zoom meetings and 1-1 phone calls with hundreds of participants over the last few weeks. Schedule these same type sessions with your advisor or if necessary we have a dedicated education coordinator that can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s normally in client offices each day, while this currently isn’t possible we’re happy to share this resource with non-clients. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
We have decreased our hourly employees’ schedules dramatically, some are getting zero hours. I have associates inquiring about their 401k loan and payments. If they do not make enough money to pay their loan, how are we to handle this?
Plan sponsors are not required to make plan loans available to participants, but if they do the terms of the loan must be included in the loan documentation, including under what conditions loan repayments may be suspended. For someone that already has a loan, but won’t be receiving a paycheck, your record keeper can be notified of a loan suspension, which will prevent the default. The issue with that is if the employee doesn’t return to work, record keeper will need to be notified so that the loan can continue its natural course of default. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
Can we suspend employer contributions to our 401k plan, or at least defer them? If not should we terminate our plan?
If you have a discretionary match/profit sharing you can suspend that immediately, no notice is required. If you have a safe harbor employer contribution you could check with your TPA about an amendment that would allow you to only fund that contribution through the amendment date. We are advising sponsors to hold off on anything significant as there is currently legislation being discussed permitting employers to halt these contributions for the remainder of the year which would provide more immediate relief. (3/24/2020 Webinar)
CDC Recommendations for Non-Healthcare Businesses
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Notice
NYS Unemployment – Additional Coverage Overview
Ten Tips to Stay Cyber-Safe When Working Remotely
Coronavirus Emergency Loans: Small Business Guide & Checklist
NYS on PAUSE: Executive Order
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
World Health Organization
NYS Department of Health: Coronavirus
List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (Causes COVID-19)
Make a personal insurance claim or payment online