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APS and covid-19

As we adjust to new precautions and possible situations, we want to keep you informed as well as provide resources to help your business through this challenging and uncertain time.

 

Warning

APS Customers

Please log in and visit our Help Center for the latest COVID-19 updates. We are monitoring all COVID-19 guidelines and info daily and will PROVIDE updateS ASAP.

Updated 4/6/2020

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COVID-19 FAQs

Can we reduce pay because of an economic slowdown due to COVID-19?

You can reduce an employee's rate of pay based on business or economic slowdown, provided that this is not done retroactively. For instance, if you give employees notice that their pay will change on the 10th, and your payroll period runs from the 1st through the 15th, make sure that their next check still reflects the higher rate of pay for the first 9 days of the payroll period.

Non-Exempt Employees (Those Entitled to Overtime)
A non-exempt employee's new rate of pay must still meet the applicable federal, state, or local minimum wage. Employees must be given notice of the change at the time of the change, or before. This gives them the ability to stop working if they don’t agree with the new rate of pay and can help prevent a wage claim.

Exempt Employees (Those Not Entitled to Overtime)
An exempt employee's new salary must still be at or above the federal or state minimum for exempt employees. The federal minimum salary is $684 per week. Several states have weekly minimums that are higher than that (California and New York, for instance, are in the $1,000 per week range). The minimum may not be prorated based on hours worked.

Exempt Employee Reclassification
If an exempt employee has so little work to do that it does not make sense to pay them the federal or state minimum (or you simply cannot afford to), they can be reclassified as non-exempt and be paid by the hour instead. This must not be done on a very short-term basis. Although there are no hard and fast rules about how long you can reclassify someone, we would recommend not changing their classification unless you expect the slowdown to last for more than three weeks. Changing them back and forth frequently could cause you to lose their exemption retroactively and potentially owe years of overtime.

Employees with Contracts or CBAs
If employees have employment contracts or are subject to collective bargaining agreements, you should consult with an attorney before making any changes to pay.

Given COVID-19, if an employee is out of the office due to sickness, can we ask them about their symptoms?

Yes, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. In most circumstances, employers shouldn’t ask about an employee’s symptoms, as that could be construed as a disability-related inquiry. Under the circumstances, however—and in line with an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace—we recommend asking specifically about the symptoms of COVID-19 and making it clear that this is the extent of the information you’re looking for.

Here’s a suggested communication: “Thank you for staying home while sick. In the interest of keeping all employees as safe as possible, we’d like to know if you are having any of the symptoms of COVID-19. Are you experiencing a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath?”

Remember that medical information must be kept confidential as required by the ADA. If the employee does reveal that they have symptoms of COVID-19 or has a confirmed case, you should see the CDC’s Interim Guidance to determine the next steps. Tables 1 and 2 will help you assess risk and determine what steps, if any, should be taken.

Do we still have to provide EPSL or EFMLA if we shut down, or if we furlough or lay off employees?

Generally, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) any eligible employee is entitled to emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) leave effective April 1, 2020.

We urge employers to consult the recent guidance on receiving immediate dollar-for-dollar reimbursement for EPSL and EFMLA as well as the plans for small business waivers for leave related to school closures when it would jeopardize the viability of the business. Read our article about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act for more information.

If I am a nonprofit or a public employer, do FFCRA tax credits and reimbursement apply to me?

Most public employers (e.g., cities, municipalities, public school districts) will not be eligible for the tax credits or reimbursements provided in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Private nonprofit entities, however, are eligible.

Can I send an employee home if they are sick or pregnant, regardless of whether it’s COVID-19-related, just to be safe?

You have the right to send people home for sickness if it appears that they have something contagious; in this case, you are protecting other employees in the workplace. This includes sending employees home who have the common cold.

You should not send employees home because you believe they are higher risk — this includes pregnant employees. We would encourage you to make working from home or unpaid leaves available for employees who want that option, but not to force that on anyone who doesn’t pose a risk to others.

What should we do if a potentially exposed employee came into the office? Do we inform affected employees and/or send everyone home?

You should refer to the CDC’s Risk Assessment tool and/or contact your local health authority to help you determine what steps, if any, would be warranted to protect other employees. Remember that medical information (even of an employee’s family member) must be kept confidential under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

How do we handle taking employee’s temperatures?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance that employers may take employees’ temperatures during the COVID-19 pandemic because COVID-19 is spreading nationwide. Note that many people may have COVID-19 without a fever, so other safety precautions should not be scaled back just because employees “checked out” upon arrival to work. The CDC summarizes symptoms here.

The main CDC COVID-19 page has general community mitigation strategies as well as certain regional specific strategies. We cannot provide guidance on how to implement temperature checking procedures, but significant precautions should be taken so that you do not actually increase risk by reusing a tool that comes into contact with hands and/or mouths of multiple employees.

Do we have to pay an employee we sent home due to COVID-19?

Employees must be paid for any work they do at home. If you send someone home and they cannot work remotely, then whether you pay them, and how much, will depend on their classification.

Nonexempt Employees Only Need to Be Paid for Actual Hours Worked

For nonexempt employees, in situations where leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) does not apply, the company may:

  1. Pay the employee for the time, even though they did not work;
  2. Require they take the day off unpaid;
  3. Require they use any available vacation time or PTO; or
  4. Allow employees to choose between taking an unpaid day or using vacation or PTO

All four options are compliant with state and federal law. Option 4 is generally recommended — allowing employees the option of using vacation time or PTO, but not requiring it.

Exempt Employees Must Be Paid Their Regular Salary Unless They Do No Work for an Entire Week

This holds true whether they are sent home for full or partial days. You may, however, require exempt employees to use accrued vacation or PTO if you have a policy that indicates you will do so, or if this has been your practice in the past. If your office has closed or sent people home for emergencies in the past and you have not required exempt employees to use vacation or PTO, and you want to require that this time around, you should indicate — ahead of the closure, if possible — that you are changing your policy or practice on this issue. When it comes to accrued vacation or PTO, it is safest to give employees advance notice if there are situations where you will use their accrued hours whether they like it or not.

For exempt employees who do not have sufficient vacation or PTO to cover the closure, you are still required to provide them with their full regular salary. The only scenario where you will not be required to pay an exempt employee their full salary is if the office is closed for an entire workweek (or the employee is unable to come in for an entire workweek) and they do no work at all from home.

Can we require employees to get medical notes for sick or medical leaves related to COVID-19?

You can, but the CDC asks that you not require them for an employee to return to work, as health care practitioners are already overwhelmed.

Our business is suffering due to COVID-19. We can’t afford to pay people and might have to close. What do we do?

This is understandably a very difficult situation for employers and their employees.

There are three basic options when it comes to keeping employees or letting them go: furlough (temporary reduction in hours of work or weeks of work); temporary layoffs (layoff with the intention of rehire, generally within six months); or permanent layoffs (layoff with no anticipated rehire date). In all situations, it’s best to be very clear in written communications about your decision and work with an attorney.

Employees who are furloughed can still receive unemployment insurance benefits, so employers shouldn’t feel like they have to terminate everyone just so they can receive unemployment insurance.

Do we still offer the same benefits during a furlough due to COVID-19 as we did before? What about a layoff or closure?

Check with your benefits provider before you take action. Eligibility for benefits during a furlough or layoff will depend on the specifics of your plan. For health insurance, if an employee would lose their eligibility during a furlough (or layoff), then federal COBRA or state mini-COBRA would apply.

Do we still have to provide emergency paid sick leave or expanded FMLA if we lay off or furlough employees?

No. Employers who are closed — either due to lack of business or a state or local order — do not have to provide these leaves. Employees who are furloughed (temporarily not working but still on the payroll) are also not entitled to these benefits. In either of these cases, employees would be eligible for unemployment insurance instead.

However, employers should ensure that they are not making furlough or layoff decisions based on an employee’s request or potential need for leave, as this would likely be considered interference or retaliation (and grounds for a lawsuit).

I’m concerned about the cost of unemployment as well as how to advise employees about it. Any help?

Remember that you don’t pay unemployment insurance (UI) claims directly. They are paid by the state, and the state gets funds for that from unemployment insurance taxes that employers pay into regularly. Some employers are concerned that their UI tax rate will increase due to current layoffs, but it appears that many states will essentially be forgiving COVID-19-related terminations with respect to future increases in UI tax rates.

Most employees who experience reduced hours, furloughs, or layoffs will be eligible for at least some unemployment insurance. Exactly how much will depend on a number of factors. Employees should be encouraged to file as soon as possible and to research rules, benefits, and options themselves to ensure they get the best benefit possible. We recommend that both employers and employees visit their state’s unemployment insurance department website and track local and state news, as departments across the country are updating their rules to facilitate displaced workers during this time.

Payroll and HR Consultations

During this difficult time, we are offering FREE payroll and HR consultations to help businesses navigate through COVID19. Contact us today to get the payroll and HR help you need.

APS Business Continuity Plan

APS COVID-19 Update (Published 3/19/2020)

Business Continuity

We have completed the process of executing the remote worker aspect of our business continuity plan. As of today approximately 80% of the APS staff are either working remotely or enabled to work remotely.

Support Requests

For support needs, continue to submit requests using the Help Center as phone support is still reserved for critical needs. As this situation evolves we will expand phone support as needed.

Check Printing and Shipping

As a reminder, if APS prints and ships checks to you, we strongly recommend that you prepare to be able to print checks locally at your office. To print checks locally, you will need compatible 8.5 x 11 check stock which can be purchased at most office supply stores.

State Unemployment

Various states have begun releasing their protocol and procedures for employees that are in need to claim partial or temporary unemployment benefits in relation to mass layoffs or shutdowns due to COVID-19. Please be sure to check out the state’s unemployment website in order to be able to provide the correct and most current information to the employees that are being affected.

We wish you good health and thank you for your trust in APS.

Aaron Johnson
President & CEO

A Note About COVID-19 (Published 3/13/2020)

Our primary objectives are to provide a safe environment for our employees and to ensure that the critical business needs of our customers and partners are met. We do not anticipate significant interruptions to business operations at APS or with our critical infrastructure partners in banking and technology. However, here are some things to consider:

Limited staff due to school closings or infection

In the event of school closings or infection, our designated remote staff will manage customer support needs.

During this time, customer support will be limited to payroll and attendance requests that are submitted to APS through the Help Center. Phone support will be reserved for critical business issues.

Disruption to FedEx delivery services (ignore this if you are paperless)

In the event that there is a disruption to the delivery service from FedEx in local markets or at the Memphis (TN) hub, it is very likely that deliveries will be delayed or cease.

To minimize the impact of a disruption from FedEx, we recommend the use of employee direct deposit and pay cards. If direct deposit is not an option for an employee, we recommend using remote check printing. Remote check printing allows you to print checks for a payroll run directly from APS to your local printer. If you are interested in remote check printing, please reach out to your Account Team for assistance.

What you should do to prepare

Just as a reminder, APS is a cloud-based system that you can access from any computer with an internet connection. As a security protocol, you will be required to complete two-factor authentication in order to log in from a new computer and browser combination.

Also, review your user profile and make sure that your mobile phone number is correct so that we can reach you if necessary.

If you are the only payroll admin user in APS, it is strongly encouraged to identify a backup person that has the authority to access your company data in APS. If there are any primary contact information changes that we need to be aware of to discuss confidential information, please let your Account Team know as soon as possible.

Employee self-service and clocking

For employee access to eSELFSERVE.COM, employees can download the mobile app from one of the app stores to access their information.

If you have IP restrictions for clocking enabled, you will have to remove the restrictions for employees to clock in remotely, or enable mobile clocking using the app. This can be done in the Admin console under eSELFSERVE.COM Settings.

Communicating with employees

It is important to minimize the uncertainty for employees regarding the ability for them to get paid and to communicate with them effectively as risks materialize.

As a convenience to our customers, we have enabled Notifications for all customers and are waiving all text messaging usage fees through April 2020. If you want to use the text feature in Notifications, you will have to enable text messaging in the Admin console under the Notification Preferences link. You can then access the Notifications page from the Employee drop-down menu in the top navigation bar.

Fraud and phishing schemes

During times of uncertainty, it is important to be on high alert that bad actors will try to take advantage of you and your employees. As a reminder, do not click on any links in emails that you receive that are unsolicited, reference “urgent coronavirus action required”, or try to get you to make a monetary transaction.

We wish you good health and thank you for your trust in APS.

Aaron Johnson
President & CEO

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