The demand for unemployment benefits during coronavirus has skyrocketed. While states are lifting their stay at home orders and restrictions, some businesses that closed their doors in March are cautiously reopening. Workers in retail, restaurant, and meatpacking plants are being asked to return to work. But with coronavirus hotspots breaking out across the country, some employees aren’t comfortable with returning back to work. So what are businesses and employees to do?
Refusing Work Won’t Keep You on Unemployment Benefits
On April 27, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 16-20, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program Reporting Instructions and Questions and Answers. According to the Department of Labor, employees must return to work if they are offered the same hours and pay they had before the pandemic. Those that refuse will not be eligible for PUA unemployment benefits unless they’ve been directly affected by the virus.
Unless You’ve Been Directly Affected By Coronavirus
The DOL also says you may be eligible for PUA assistance if you have had Covid-19 and recovered, but not able to do your previous job due to health complications, with or without reasonable accommodations. You may also be eligible for assistance if your immune system has been compromised by virtue of a serious health condition and advised by your doctor to stay home to avoid the greater-than-usual risks. You may also be eligible if someone in your house has the virus, you’re taking care of a child who can’t go to childcare/schools because of the virus, or you’re unable to reach the business because of the virus. Here is a list from the National Law Review that breaks down all the specific ways this could have affected you.
Businesses Will Stick To Guidelines
Going back doesn’t mean back to the usual system! Businesses that are reopening need to stick to the CDC guidelines in order to keep their employees and customers safe. All companies need to have a plan specific to their workplace. Any employee that is showing or expressing symptoms should stay home. Those that has a sick member in their household should follow CDC guidelines. All updates from the CDC can be read here in greater detail.
Disinfecting the workplace and having handwashing breaks is useful. Closing down breakrooms is one of the easiest ways to stop people from congregating and spreading it.
When your boss says you need to “return to work”, this doesn’t mean that you will be exposed to the virus! While the situation is new to everyone, there are still ways we can protect each other and take care of everyone’s health. We’re all in this together and we will get through it together!
Check out more about how the global pandemic has changed the job market: