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May 21
Coronavirus Workplace Checklist, New Benefit Rules


As state, local and municipal governments take steps to reopen businesses across the country, employers are taking a fresh look at their physical workspace, their workplace practices and their communication and training of employees to protect against the spread of the coronavirus and to protect their employees and clients.

Affinity HR, a Big “I" Hires partner, created a checklist for employers to consider when planning to reopen. This checklist serves to provide ideas, resources and reminders on how to improve the level of safety and protection in your workplace. 

Other changes and rules to take note of include:

Emergency Paid Family Leave. As daycare facilities open up and as school years come to an end, employers must revisit leave requests for employees out on emergency paid family leave to care for a child whose schooling or daycare was closed due to the coronavirus. 

New documentation should be obtained and leave forms updated to demonstrate how daycare provisions and how family childcare provisions planned for the summer months have been disrupted by the pandemic. 

Changes to COBRA and FSAs. The IRS and Department of Labor (DOL) have recently released notices changing certain rules for employer-sponsored health plans. Some major provisions are:

  • Benefit Plans—COBRA. In a joint statement, the IRS and DOL announced several changes to COBRA timing and process. For these provisions, the agencies defined the “Outbreak Period" as March 1 and ending 60 days after the end of the declared COVID-19 emergency.
    • The following rules have been issued:
      • Election period: Under the new rule, the 60-day timeframe to elect for coverage does not start until after the end of the outbreak period.
      • Premium payment period: The new rule extends initial and monthly payment deadlines beyond the outbreak period so an employee can pay COBRA payments due beginning in March until 30 days after the outbreak period without cancelation of coverage.
      • Notices: Employers must still provide employees with the COBRA election notice within 14 days from the date of the COBRA-qualifying event. However, employers will need to make adjustments to reflect the new changes.
  • Benefit Plans—mid-year elections and changes. The IRS announced new flexibility regarding mid-year elections and changes for group health plans and FSAs, allowing employers the option to let employees enroll in employer-sponsored health plans during the plan year through a new election. Switching plans, coverage or tiers within plans they are already enrolled in is also permitted.
  • FSA—enrollments and elections. The IRS stated that employers may choose to allow employees to enroll in, drop or increase coverage—up to the annual limit. They may also decrease payroll-deducted contributions for health and dependent care FSAs during 2020. Depending on the structure and timing of the FSA, employers may also elect to allow employees additional time to use FY2019 FSA balances which were carried over into FY2020.
  • FSA—carryover limits. In Notice 2020-33, the IRS increased the amount of funds employees could carry over without penalty at the end of the year if their plans offer a carryover option. This amount is now $550, increased from the previous $500.

Employers should contact their plan administrators to learn more about their options and obligations due to these and other provisions and changes under COBRA, ERISA, and other related regulations. 

Should you need any assistance or advice as you manage your workplace in the midst of the coronavirus, visit Affinity HR Group online to learn more about HR policies and procedures.


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