Most home care agencies are seeing a drop in service hours due to the coronavirus pandemic. Family members are more readily available to assist their older loved ones in their homes, making home care services a bit more obsolete right now. To further complicate the issue, visitor restrictions at assisted living, skilled nursing, and other senior care communities have decreased service hours home care agencies in those spaces as well.
Your home care agency may have had to furlough workers due to a lack of service hours or a decreased client roster. Furloughing workers gives your agency the opportunity to decrease costs in order to keep your agency running in the midst of decreased demands. It also gives you the opportunity to call back staff members as your client list grows and needs increase.
How is furloughing a worker different than laying off a worker?
Furloughed workers typically receive an estimated time to return to work, though giving them that time frame does not set it in stone. Furloughed workers are technically still employees.
Do furloughed employees receive unemployment compensation?
Yes. Furloughed caregivers and employees can receive unemployment from the state, along with the additional $600 per week via the federal CARES act. However, some caregivers who may have worked as independent contractors may need to apply as gig workers.
What about health insurance for furloughed employees?
If your agency furloughs employees who currently receive health insurance benefits, there are a few things to consider. First, your agency must keep a furloughed employee on health insurance coverage if they were on it prior to being furloughed. Next, consider who will pay for the employee’s portion of the insurance benefits. Some organizations are asking employees to pay in for their portion while other organizations are finding ways to pay for the employee portion. If your agency goes this way, work with your insurance company as a plan amendment may be necessary for the change.
COBRA is another option for health insurance coverage, but it must be affordable, or your agency could receive an Affordable Healthcare Act penalty. This can be costly for you as well as for the employee who is left without affordable health coverage.
What do we do when we are ready to bring back a furloughed employee?
When your home care agency is ready to bring back a furloughed employee, you can contact that employee to let them know you are offering them their job back. Include the number of hours and when you would like them to start. While they can refuse to return, this could jeopardize their unemployment benefits. If they do agree to return to work, you can choose if you want to bring them back with a reorientation training plan or if you want to send them right to work with clients. If you choose to send them right back into the clients’ homes, ensure you have given them access to COVID-19 caregiver training, so they know how to protect themselves and those they serve.