WAYNE, NJ - The impact of the coronavirus on New Jersey citizens, as well as people around the country and all over the globe is unprecedented.
If you are a large company, you can afford to pay your workers to stay home, even those who can’t work remotely. But for many small business owners being forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak, pay options for their employees are limited at this time.
In New Jersey, job protection rights under state law are limited to only certain situations. For example: you or a family member being sick or told to self-quarantine by a doctor or employer, or the closing of your child’s school or daycare facility.
Governor Phil Murphy has made it clear that he wants employers to be as compassionate as possible when dealing with their employees. “Staying home from work is the best social distancing policy we can employ”, said Murphy.
Many companies have shifted to remote work only. According to Murphy, most New Jersey public workers will not need to use paid sick leave to take time off. Employees are urged to discuss options with their employer now.
So, what options do employees have who are worried about the coronavirus.
All employees in New Jersey, both full- and part-time, are allowed to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year to care for family members, if their company is closed due to a public health emergency or if health reasons cause the closure of their child’s school or daycare facility.
Employees earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked and can carry over to the following year up to 40 hours of sick leave. Employees are eligible to begin taking sick leave after four months on the job. Ask your employer if they have a policy allowing for the advance of sick leave time.
You may be eligible for workers’ compensation if you are exposed to and get the coronavirus at work, whether it is from a coworker or a patron you served at a restaurant. For information on workers’ comp, visit https://www.nj.gov/labor/wc/workers/claim/filing_index.html .
You can file a claim for disability benefits if you contracted the coronavirus outside of work. File a claim online at https://myleavebenefits.nj.gov/worker/tdi/ .
Any worker whose normal work schedule is reduced by 20% or more may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Additionally, you can also file a claim for unemployment if your company is forced to close due to the coronavirus. Go to https://myunemployment.nj.gov/ .
Help for Small Businesses:
A huge stimulus package targeting small businesses was passed by the U.S. Congress and would provide $1 billion to states, comprised of emergency grants for states with an increase in unemployment of at least 10%, along with funds to process state unemployment claims.
A policy which would grant some workers up to three months of paid family leave and two weeks of paid sick leave will be debated in the Senate before anything can get to President Trump for his signature. The proposal calls for the availability of tax credits to offset these costs for businesses.
Along with applying only to businesses with less than 500 employees, the package also stipulates that workers or their family members must be infected by the coronavirus or required to go into quarantine. Additionally, certain health care providers and emergency responders are not covered.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has posted information regarding loan programs and guidance for businesses to plan and respond to the coronavirus. For information, please go to: www.SBA.gov
Gordon Marzano is the owner of Marzano Human Resources Consulting in Wayne, NJ.
He can be reached at (973) 513-9916; firstname.lastname@example.org