As we continue our journey in the twilight zone of COVID-19, the calls we receive at 501(c) HR Services from our member clients have begun to change as organizations are beginning to open their doors once again to serve their communities. Hopefully you all had an opportunity to utilize our reopening guide to give you some helpful hints and things to think about prior to bringing back staff.
A new, very frequently asked question is in regards to recalling furloughed and temporarily laid off employees. The question or situation is that some employees have refused to return to the workplace when officially recalled back to work. Sometimes these employees have valid concerns and reasons for refusing and sometimes the reason is that they want to continue to receive unemployment.
Mostly clients want to know, “How do we respond to the employee who refuses to return because they want to stay on unemployment insurance?” Other times the concern is, “How do we ensure PPP loan forgiveness?” These are both very real and valid concerns.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has given us all guidance on how to handle such questions, therefore helping to ease the fear that your PPP loan can still be forgiven as long as you follow their guidelines. The SBA has a good FAQ to help navigate questions regarding your loan and question 40 deals specifically with the employee who is refusing a good-faith off of re-employment.
As you follow the SBA’s recommendations always remember to record and keep excellent documentation of your safety efforts and discussions with the staff you are recalling. Having a good paper trail that shows an official Recall to Work Notice (find a sample here) and, at best, an email from the employee refusing to return with reasons stated or at a minimum a record (notes) of your conversation with the employee stating their refusing to return. Make sure that all are dated with the names of those involved in the conversation.
The bottom line in protecting your organization from liability as you start to reopen, is to work hard to create a safe working environment during a pandemic and that good documentation continues to be an employer’s friend. Employees who reject an offer of reinstatement/recall are likely to no longer be eligible for continued unemployment compensation.
If you have questions on this or any other HR related issue, please don’t hesitate to contact HR Services for assistance.