COVID-19 HR FAQ

I am considering the temporary layoff or furlough of employees, both full time and part time. What steps should be taken?

Please begin with your pastoral and finance council chair (and, if possible all members of the Finance Council) to review the plan and the financial and pastoral needs of the parish at this time.The plan should include how necessary operations will continue and whether the individual(s) to be laid off are selected in a non-discriminatory manner.

If you wish to apply for a payroll protection program (PPP) loan through the Small Business Administration, you can furlough the employees until the loan is approved. Then bring the employees back on staff. A furlough is a short term leave without pay, in which the individual will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits until recalled to work once the loan has been approved.. See special instructions for PPP loans.

If you do not apply for a PPP loan, then s pecify a temporary layoff giving the final day of employment. Do not create a contractual obligation to bring the employee back to work. Let the employee know that the situation is fluid and subject to change.

Give the employee a letter specifying the details of the layoff or furlough , such as effective date of layoff, what will happen with their medical benefits, paid time off, etc.

Any plan involving schools should involve Cormac Lynn and must take account of staff members’ responsibilities at this time. Please be especially careful regarding PPP loans for schools as there are additional requirements, including the necessity to provide accommodation for students with special needs.

Permanent layoffs are not encouraged at this time. Nevertheless, if you believe this would be in the best interest of the parish or school, please let the Office of Human Resources know of your plan and the rationale for the decision, and discuss the plan at your earliest convenience.

All information should be provided to the MCC benefits department immediately and the layoff /furlough information should be input into Paycor.

Should I apply for a Small Business Administration loan?  I hear the loan has 0% interest and can be used to pay personnel and other critical bills, and that the principal can be forgiven?  It sounds like a sweet deal.

This may be of benefit to you. See the separate instructions and Q & A on this topic. Review the matter with your Parish Finance Council. If you do want to pursue a PPP loan, you should do so soon.

Do I need to figure out the various programs for government assistance, such as payroll assistance?

No, the Diocese will provide information to you and all school/parish leaders about government assistance programs. We are updating information today regarding the SBA loans to support payroll and other expenses.

Does the Diocese require me to apply for an SBA Loan?

No, you as the employer, in consultation with appropriate councils and advisers, understand your local situation.

My religious education director just announced she had already applied for unemployment benefits, but I haven’t notified her of a lay-off

Please verify the application with the DRE and then determine whether the responsibilities can be fulfilled by someone else on your staff or cannot be fulfilled at this time.  If you agree with the employee’s decision to seek unemployment benefits, provide the employee with a letter granting a temporary layoff and stating the last day of compensation. Or, if you intend to apply for an SBA loan, state that she is granted a furlough.

Are part time employees, working less than 20 hours per week, eligible for FMLA?

No.  An employee must have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months previous to the request. That number includes only hours worked. Hours taken off work for vacation, sick, personal, holiday, etc. are not counted in the 1,250 hours.

Can I use a volunteer for bookkeeping, clerical assistance and other work?

During a temporary lay-off of some staff, responsibilities would typically shift to another employee. An employer needs to carefully evaluate the use of volunteers, who should not be involved with confidential information. The employer must also evaluate the skills needed to complete tasks such as bookkeeping as it relates to the systems used.

Can the volunteer be the laid off employee?

No. An employee cannot volunteer for their own job.

Can employees file for unemployment benefits if I reduce their hours because of COVID-19?

Yes. You need to contact Michigan Catholic Conference and inform them of the change in hours before you do it, and they will guide you on how to enter hours into Paycor.

I told an employee to stay home because other employees told me that the employee has a family member with COVID-19. The employee agrees that his father (who lives next door) is infected and the employee has had contact with his father in the last 48 hours. However, the employee wants to come to work, claiming he has no symptoms.  Should I stand firm in telling the employee to stay home? 

Yes, if your employees tell you of a possible safety or health risk, you must recognize the seriousness of their concern, whether the employee has COVID-19 or not. However, you cannot force the employee to use vacation or sick time in this situation. 

Likewise, an employee who elects to stay home due to exposure from a close contact or who is symptomatic themselves, is protected from discipline, discharge  and otherwise retaliation under the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-36 signed April 3, 2020. The time away from work should be according to the standards CDC and governmental health officials recommend.  (CDC.gov) 

When should impacted employees file their unemployment claim?

A claim for unemployment benefits begins the week it is filed. Workers should file their claim during their first week of unemployment.

What steps should I take to determine, if I should lay staff off, who I should lay off?

If you determine that you wish to lay off or furlough staff after considering the impact on any payroll protection funding, a potential process would be to list all staff members along with their title and/or basic job duties. You and the pastoral council chair and finance council chair could go through the list to determine what, if any, of the processes are critical to operating the parish. Who performs those tasks and how much time is needed for those tasks? What additional projects or tasks is the parish undertaking to remain or improve connection with the parishioners? Who is needed for those tasks? Based on those answers, you should be able to determine who you should completely or partially lay off. These basic questions should be reviewed as events and times change.  

For example your hourly staff could consist of a part time bookkeeper (24 hours), a maintenance person (40 hours), a secretary (24 hours), a DRE (24 hours) and an organist (weekends only).  You know the bills and payroll needs to continue to be paid, so the bookkeeper is needed. But with the limited amount of processing, the bookkeeper’s hours may be cut to 16 hours per week.  Because the parish activities are limited, the secretaries role also requires less time. Maybe the bookkeeper takes over that role or the secretary comes in 3 half days instead of full days, cutting 12 hours per week. The church and buildings are open for limited hours, so the maintenance person is only needed one day per week. The DRE may need to take on more hours so he/she can prepare lessons and on-line learning for the students. The organist could be laid off completely if he/she is considered an employee and not paid via stipend. 

The pastoral council may have determined that this is a good time to update parishioners’ email addresses so outreach is more effective. Perhaps one of the staff members could take on this project. Maybe they have put together a call campaign of some sort. Perhaps one of your staff could act as a project leader with a group of volunteers to make those calls. This is only an example to give you a potential process you can use with your team to think through these decisions.

Can I reduce salaried employees hours during this time? 

The general rule of thumb on this answer is no, you cannot reduce salaried employees’ hours.

Each location should have gone through the review exercise a few months ago to make sure that employees were properly classified as it applied to the new FLSA regulation on minimum weekly salaried amounts for exempt employees. If you have not done so, please do so now, with the assistance of Human Resources. 

If I reduce an employee's hours, what else do I need to think about?

A reduction of hours often affects benefits.  For example, the benefits memorandum would also describe the employee contribution for medical insurance; this may change with a reduction in hours.

If we temporarily reduce an employee’s hours to less than 20 per week, are they still eligible to participate in the MCC health insurance plan?

The MCC plans considers an employee benefit eligible if they are in a position that normally requires 20 or more hours per week for five or more months in a calendar year. As long as this holds true, and the employer wishes to continue benefits, there is no need to change scheduled hours in Paycor, and benefits will continue during the temporary reduction in hours.

If an employee's hours are temporarily reduced due to Covid-19, can they choose to use their paid time off to supplement their pay?

Yes. An employee can use paid time off that is already earned to supplement their pay.