Bringing Employees Back to Work

The maximum unemployment benefit in Michigan is traditionally $362. However, the CARES Act provides an additional federal benefit of $600. That means a laid-off employee makes up to $962 on unemployment — an average of about $24 per hour. Many employees are afraid to go back to work as it is, and the expansion in unemployment, for many workers, provides a disincentive to get back to work. Here’s some things to remember when trying to entice your employees back to work.

Consider Work Share

Michigan is one of about 25 states with a Work Share Program. The program is designed to keep employees connected with their employers. Employers who want to participate in the plan can apply online through their MiWAM account. See the Michigan tutorial, below.

An employer will identify groups of at least 2 employees for participation in a plan. The employer must then reduce the employees hours by between 10% and 65%, with a commensurate reduction in wages. For weeks covered by the Work Share Plan, the employee will receive: his or her wages, a proportionate percentage of his or her state unemployment benefit, AND (through July) the FULL $600 benefit funded through the CARES Act. Plus, employers who participate in Work Share must agree to continue the employee’s fringe benefits and health care coverage. Thus, it will be economically advantageous for the employees that agree to return to work.

Some employees may still be hesitant to return to work. According to United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, employees who refuse to return to work will lose out on the extra $600 of CARES Act unemployment assistance. And under Michigan law, the general rule is that a worker who refuses an offer of suitable work is disqualified from state unemployment benefits. Lastly, some employers who instituted temporary layoffs continued the healthcare coverage for their workers. Workers who refuse to return to work may find that their employer is suddenly feeling less generous.

A word of caution:

Employer’s should consult with HR and Legal Counsel before returning employees to work (or terminating those who refuse to work). There are executive orders and state and federal labor laws and anti-discrimination laws that should be considered prior to making any return-to-work or termination decisions.

For example, in Michigan right now, an employer may not terminate an employee who refuses to work for certain COVID-19-related reasons, such as if the employee or a family member were recently sick with coronavirus symptoms.

Questions?

If you have questions about how to structure your Work Share Plan, about terminating employees, or about bringing them back to work, contact me here or call/text (734) 956-0113 or email bgrysko@fb-firm.com, and I’ll be happy to discuss ways that the attorneys at Fausone Bohn, LLP can help you.

For more information on applying for Work Share, check out this tutorial from the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

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