It is practically impossible to be fully prepared when a hurricane, earthquake, flood, fire or any other emergency occurs. When bad things happen there can be a great deal of uncertainty, and times like these can be a source of stress for many employees.
As you are staying up-to-date with the news coverage on the COVID-19 outbreak and taking preventative measures to prioritize your health, you may be wondering what the best approach is to workers compensation and payroll.
At Brink’s Money, we are thinking of you and want to help set up employees for financial success during this time. The security of a paycheck is important, so in this article we’ll give you a few ideas to ensure there are no disruptions in payroll throughout the COVID-19 pandemic or in the event of any other natural disasters.
General rules under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA)
During this time of uncertainty, employees may not be fully working but that you must still be familiar with their compensation rights. These laws vary depending on how you categorize an employee, whether they are exempt or nonexempt. You may also have additional obligations depending on where you live, so it is extremely important to check with your state for additional information. The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division posted a helpful guide for employers that answers a number of questions related to how to manage payroll, wages and worked hours during emergencies.
You will be required to pay nonexempt employees only for hours that employees have actually worked. That means, if you are forced to close your business temporarily, you are not required to pay non-exempt employees for hours they are unable to work. You should still, however, determine if there are any additional pay obligations imposed by state laws.
The general rule is that exempt employees must be paid their full salary for any workweek in which they perform any amount of work, while there may be a few cases in which deductions are allowed but you should check any additional obligations imposed by your state laws. In some cases, employers may require staff to take vacation or paid time off if the company is closed or unable to operate temporarily due to a natural disaster or unexpected event, but the exempt employee must still receive his full guaranteed weekly salary.
Paycheck Protection Program
Another opportunity that may lend you a helping hand is the Paycheck Protection Program. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides forgivable loans to small businesses to help cover up to eight weeks of payroll costs among other expenses, such as interest on mortgages and rent. PPP is a small business relief measure developed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). It is there to support businesses so they can maintain employees on payroll. If you have a company with 500 or less employees then you can apply for a PPP loan. These small businesses include self-employed individuals, independent contractors, sole proprietorship, nonprofits, veterans organizations, and tribal businesses. Applications opened on April 3, 2020 and the program will be available through June 30, 2020.
Devise Your Backup Plan
Employees are counting on payroll for everyday needs and finances, regardless of the circumstances. In case of a disaster, it’s highly important to think ahead and be prepared for the unexpected. It might be helpful to have a checklist that includes some of the following:
Backing Up Information
Consider backing up your payroll information so you have access to it on multiple devices, you wouldn't want all information to be centralized in one computer in case you are unable to go to the office because of unexpected events. You may look for different online payroll software providers with features such as a clod that can store and protect your data, keeping digital records of everything any time you need to access them.
During emergencies, one of the top priorities is ensuring that your employees can receive their wages. Lost, stolen, misrouted, or uncashed paper checks can take a toll on your business and ultimately frustrate your employees in times of need. Offer alternative payment methods to your employees, so they have electronic choices.
Try to identify the processes that are critical to payroll and determine how they can be accomplished remotely to promote the safety of your employees. After you have devised your plan, be sure to keep employees informed of any changes, which procedures to follow, and set clear expectations in terms of payroll.
Re-Evaluate Your Payment Methods
When it comes to choosing how to receive wages, it is important for your employees to know the differences between all payment methods. Before you consider switching to paperless payroll, make sure to discuss with your employees the drawbacks of using paper checks.
While paper checks are considered the traditional payment method to receive wages when you do not have a bank account, they have significant drawbacks when it comes to emergency situations. Paper checks can be a hassle because they run the risk of getting lost or delayed in transit due to unexpected events. During this pandemic, your employees shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll safely receive their check.
In addition, your employees depend entirely on bank business days to cash paper checks and access their money. At a time where social distancing is mandatory, forcing many locations to reduce their working hours, your employees receiving checks might have a harder time than usual trying to cash them – which in turn could potentially put them in a difficult financial situation.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to distribute payroll to employees during this pandemic is via direct deposit. When you go paperless, your employees get paid right on time and on their terms. There’s no need to wait or incur additional costs just to cash a paper check. With direct deposit, employees have access to their money at the start of business every pay period.
If your employees don’t have a bank account or would like an alternative option to avoid additional fees, you can always offer to get their direct deposit on a payroll card. Depending on the program, they may have multiple options to access their wages for free.
When you enroll employees in a payroll card program, you give them peace of mind in emergency situations:
Accessibility. No more check-cashing fees and loans that add up to high amounts every year.
Convenience. Access to wages at the start of business on payday, when cashing locations for checks have limited hours or are entirely closed
Visibility. Access to relevant account information to manage money on the go via mobile app and web portal./li>
Planning. Online bill payments, budgeting and savings tools to plan for the future.
The Brink’s Money paycard solution allows you to issue payroll cards to employees and transfer funds on payday regardless of your employee’s banking status. The cards can be used anywhere Mastercard is accepted like any other commercial debit card for online purchases, bill payments, and transfers. Your employees will also have different options to access their wages for free and online banking tools to help them gain control of their financial lives.
Offer On-Demand Access to Wages
When disaster hits, your employees will need access to wages more than ever, and many times won’t be able to afford waiting until the next paycheck arrives. If your employees are suffering financial hardship, they can ultimately bring that stress to work. That said, you should try to give workers access to their funds when they need it, and not just on payday.
Sponsoring programs that provide them with the resources they need to change the financial direction of their lives can reduce distractions and improve productivity. Earned wage access (EWA) is a huge benefit for employees and may offer great relief to anxieties over income as a crisis unfolds.
This type of program helps those employees who might live paycheck-to-paycheck by providing immediate financial relief and protecting them from falling in additional debt traps. Instant and on-demand access to earned funds can prevent employees from resorting to payday lenders with unreasonable fees.
At Brink’s Money we are proud to offer a full suite of financial wellness services, in partnership with PayActiv, so your employees can
Transfer up to $500 of already earned wages directly on a Brink’s Money paycard
Access financial counseling, guides, and learning resources
Get Uber rides and e-commerce via Amazon within the same mobile app
We understand that the current situation with COVID-19 is unlike one we have seen in recent years and the uncertainty can result in great concern. As the crisis unfolds, Brink’s Money acknowledges the challenges employers and employees are facing with workers compensation and payroll. That’s why our program is there to give you a hand in accessing your wages for your financial needs and give you comfort so you can focus on keeping yourself and your loved ones healthy and safe.