Updated Friday, March 20, 2020 1:20 PM
You depend upon your employees as much as they depend upon you. Here is some information about how to take care of your business’s most valuable asset.
Encourage sick employees to stay at home
Reducing the infection rate of COVID-19, referred to as "flattening the curve," will be achieved by exercising "social distancing" -- reducing the number of large gatherings and by maintaining at least six feet of distance between individuals.
Recently, Gov. Janet Mills has prohibited public gatherings of more than 10 people. Also, Gov. Mills has ordered restaurants and bars to close their dine-in facilities. (Source: Gov. Janet Mills, 3/18/2020). With these parameters in mind, advise your employees to use common sense when they are out and about.
Legislation was passed this week to make our Unemployment Insurance system more flexible for both employees and employers. The Maine Department of Labor also has a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 response information.
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FAQs for Employees:
Q. What if I am asked by a medical professional or public health official to quarantine as a result of COVID-19, but I am not sick?
A. If you are following guidance issued by a medical professional or public health official to isolate or quarantine yourself as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and you are not receiving paid sick leave from your employer, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. If you are expected to return to your job as soon as your isolation or quarantine is lifted, you will not need to search for work. You must be able and available to accept any work offered by your employer that would not cause you to break isolation or quarantine, and you would need to make sure that your employer has your current contact information.
Q. My boss just announced that my business has to temporarily close and that everyone will be laid off until it reopens. Can I collect unemployment benefits, and do I have to look for work until we reopen?
A. If the business is being temporarily closed as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 virus and you are expected to return to work once the business reopens, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. You would not have to look for work as long as you remain able and available to work for your employer and make sure your employer has your current contact information.
Q. The place I work at just closed down due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus and I’ve been laid off. I just completed a claim for unemployment benefits. Will unemployment benefits start right away? I’ve filed a claim in the past and I had to serve a waiting week before I could start collecting.
A. If a business or part of the business is shut down due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus, you will not be required to serve a waiting week before you can start receiving unemployment benefits.
Q. My boss is allowing me to take an unpaid temporary leave of absence because I am considered
high-risk of the COVID-19 infection if I stay at the office, even though I am not sick now. Would I be able to collect unemployment benefits until I am able to go back to work?
A. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits during a temporary, unpaid leave of absence if you are expected to return to your job at the end of the leave, and provided you remain able and available to work for your employer and make sure that your employer has your current contact information.
Q. What if my employer goes out of business permanently as a result of COVID-19?
A. You may be eligible for and should apply for unemployment benefits.
Q. Am I covered as a self-employed fisherman?
A. Since independent contractors and the self-employed do not contribute to unemployment taxes, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits. The new legislation does not change this.