The spread of the coronavirus worldwide has caused employers and employees alike to adapt, sometimes rapidly, to changes to normal daily routines. Primary care physicians are using video chat to assess some patients presenting with flu-like symptoms rather than have them visit the office. Healthcare janitorial services have changed protocols. And many employers have banned corporate travel and liberalized remote-work policies. Airlines are cancelling flights and holiday and entertainment plans are being postponed or cancelled.
This time of uncertainty poses many questions from our clients, nannies, and senior caregivers alike. What follows is what we know and in some cases simply our thoughts on various scenarios.
Nanny Needed for Additional Coverage
Nannies who are employed by healthcare professionals, first responders and others in some areas are being asked to provide additional coverage because of the extra hours the employers are required to work. Additionally when a school closes down, many part time nannies are being asked to work additional hours with their school aged charges.
Your nanny’s availability is going to be personal depending on her other commitments – whether that be school or another job or her own family. For families whose nanny has their own children to care for, do consider temporarily allowing her to care for all children together, and especially providing her the means to retrieve her own children after school, etc.
DO remember that if your nanny is working extra hours, you need to add that time to her paycheck, including any applicable overtime.
Nanny Not Needed
A family may choose to temporarily furlough their nanny for many reasons including:
- Her recent exposure to infected or potentially infected individuals;
- Her mild illness, not wishing to potentially infect your family;
- The family’s need to self-quarantine;
- A parent’s recent temporary furlough from their employment.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require an employer to pay a non-exempt employee for time not worked. Bear in mind, however, that a family may have a legal obligation to keep paying employees because of an employment contract. Many families “guarantee” a minimum numbers of hours pay to their nanny who is otherwise able and willing to work. If it is the family’s choice not to have the nanny come in and the nanny has a guaranteed pay benefit, this will come into play.
If the nanny has no guarantee, the nanny should immediately initiate an unemployment claim. Unemployment compensation provides 40-70% income replacement when a worker’s employment ceases, even a lay off, through no fault of their own. The employer MUST timely respond to the State’s DOL inquiry about the terms of her job loss.
If your nanny is being paid off the books, be very careful. Your nanny could still file for unemployment and you will become liable for all state and federal employment taxes. This includes the FICA taxes you did not deduct from her pay.
Nanny is Unable to Work
Your nanny may become unavailable due to:
- Her own coronavirus or suspected coronavirus infection;
- Her need to care for her own family member who is ill;
- Self-quarantine due to her recent travel or potential community exposure.
This is the most problematic and stressful situation for the nanny and her employer. While most nanny employers provide some number of sick or flexible paid leave days, this benefit may not be sufficient to provide income security for the length of time required.
There are a few states with state-administered temporary disability insurance programs, notably California, New York, Rhode Island and New Jersey, that have indicated that a worker who is medially unable to work due to coronavirus with proper documentation may be eligible for temporary disability insurance, which works as partial income replacement much like unemployment insurance. And in locales with Paid Family Leave laws, she may get some temporary income replacement to care for her ill family member. Unfortunately the majority of nannies do not have these programs available to help out at this time. Most states are providing some level of guidance on this topic via posts to their Department of Labor websites.
An Ounce of Prevention
It bears repeating that good personal hygiene habits and frequent community disinfecting protocols can dramatically slow or prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
- Stay home when you are sick and encourage your employee to do the same;
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Sneeze into your elbow or shoulder if a tissue is not available. Then, wash your hands!
- Open windows, weather permitting, to increase air circulation;
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The one thing that is clear, no matter what state you live in, or how this virus moves through communities, communication is key. Have planning conversations with your employee/employer, and keep each other up to date on developments in a timely manner. The ability to make individualized care decisions has always been one of the many upsides to household employment.
Returning to work in the age of COVID-19 requires that nannies and their employers address situations that they have never had to in the past. Read more on returning to work in this new normal.
IMPACT OF THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (18 MARCH 2020)