Handling Coronavirus Employee Situations | Coronavirus Update April 7

Handling Coronavirus Employee Situations | Coronavirus Update April 7

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Posted by Ian H., President

April 8, 2020

Service companies are the backbone of the economy and Housecall Pro is committed to doing everything we can to help during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

I hope you find the resources below helpful. Please share this email with other home services companies. 


Ian Heidt

CEO, Housecall Pro

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April 7, 2020 update quick update

As of 3:35pm PST on April 7 The

Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard

is reporting 1,414,738 confirmed cases, 81,259 deaths and 298,642 recovered globally.

Here in the US they’re reporting 387,547 cases, 12,291 deaths and 20,395 recoveries.

In New York City we’ve reached a grim milestone today as the number of  deaths surpassed the number of people who died in the 9/11 attacks. Over 4000 deaths have been recorded in New York City.



, a communication application used by approximately 2 billion people worldwide, has increased its restrictions on forwarding messages to just one new chat at a time in response to increased reports of forwarded COVID-19 content and misinformation on its app. The move strengthens existing restrictions implemented since 2018 and follows similar actions by other social media companies like Facebook and Twitter that aim to reduce access to coronavirus-related misinformation. It is very difficult to assess the degree to which COVID-19 misinformation has spread, but the WHO and national health authorities have developed WhatsApp chat resources to increase access to verified information.



Today at the White House daily briefing President Trump referred to the virus as a “monster” and indicated that we are “waging medical war on the virus.” 

He reported that 8,675 ventilators are in stock and ready to be mobilized by the US military to the areas they are needed most. He mentioned that Louisiana and Michigan are two likely recipients of needed supplies. 

He also shared that there are 10 drugs in active trials and two vaccines that have moved to clinical trials at this time. 

The President says he has asked Congress for an additional $250 billion dollars for the Paycheck Protection Program. He reported that the Small Business Association as of today had made $70 billion dollars in guaranteed loans through the PPP. 

Finally, President Trump promoted the hashtag America Works Together (#Americaworkstogether) for Americans to share stories of working together and getting through this as a nation.



We reported yesterday that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to the hospital and then to an intensive care unit due to coronavirus. Reportedly, the Prime Minister is receiving oxygen, but he is currently

not using

a ventilator.



According to a report published today by the

UN’s International Labour Organization

, more than 80% of the global workforce is currently affected by some form of workplace closure. Additionally, the pandemic is expected to reduce the total number of global working hours in the second quarter of 2020 by 6.7%, which equates to 195 million full-time workers during that period.

April 7 Topic: Home service HR in the age of COVID-19

Your HR Questions Answered

When is it safe for a sick employee to return to work and can I require a doctor’s note?

    • Follow the guidelines provided by the CDC

      related to self-isolation of any individual experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or that has tested positive for the virus. The CDC recommends waiving the requirement of a doctor’s note during a crisis since it’s more difficult to access a health care provider. 

Should I tell my staff if an employee has tested positive for COVID-19?

    • Regulations within the

      Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

      restrict employers from sharing health information with other employees. You can tell your team that there has been a potential exposure without singling out any one individual.

Can I ask an employee if they have tested positive for the coronavirus?

    • Asking directly about a specific illness can lead to a

      disability-related inquiry through the ADA

      . It’s better to ask general questions about your employees’ health and whether they’re experiencing specific symptoms.

    • You can also

      take your team’s temperature

      during this crisis to help prevent the risk of exposure as long as you keep any findings confidential.

What are best practices to follow when an employee has had contact with a person who has tested positive?

    • The

      CDC recommends

      that anyone who has had potential exposure to the coronavirus should self-quarantine. At this point, you can require an employee to stay home.

What about employees that have traveled recently?

  • The CDC recommends that anyone who has traveled to a country within the

    Level 3 Travel Health Notice

    should stay home for fourteen days after returning. 

If an employee is sick, can I require them to go home?

  • Any employee showing COVID-19 related symptoms can be asked to stay home until they are symptom-free.

Can an employee refuse to come in if they’re afraid of exposure?

  • Per regulations maintained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an employee is legally entitled to refuse to work if they believe they are in danger and

    specific other conditions are met

    . If a complaint is filed, you may need to prove that you’re taking measures to provide a safe environment for your staff.

  • Also, be aware that employees with disabilities can request to work from home

    through the ADA


Should I require employees to work from home when their responsibilities allow for that option?

  • Whenever possible, working from home will reduce exposure for your team and can benefit your company in the long run. You can implement new company policies around timekeeping, etc. to keep staff engaged when they’re not used to working from home.

What coronavirus-related absences are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act?

    • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) extends FMLA leave to anyone who cannot work if their child’s school or childcare service is closed due to COVID-19. FMLA will also likely extend to anyone who has contracted the coronavirus. The Families First Act also requires small businesses to offer two weeks of paid sick leave for anyone in quarantine related to COVID-19.  Learn more about how the Families First Act affects small businesses.

Does Workers’ Compensation cover COVID-19?

  • Most states will only pay out workers’ compensation benefits if the disease was contracted on the job which exclusive most communicable and contagious diseases. If it seems likely that an employee contracted the illness on the job, these cases will be looked at individually. 

Can we reduce our team’s salaries during this crisis?

  • Check to make sure there aren’t any state regulations about giving notice before changes in pay. Be careful to stay above federal minimum wage ($684.00 a week) or your state’s minimum wage.

Featured Guest: Texas Medley

Owner, Medley Heating & Air Conditioning

Carrollton, Texas

  • How have your employee numbers changed?

    • We are running a skeleton crew right now. One guy doesn’t want to work for fear of anything surrounding the virus, one office staff who is staying home with her daughter, my dad is 58 and I told him to stop, and a fourth just had a baby and is out. 

  • How are you dealing with the changes in demand 

    • Working harder, more efficiently and just sucking it up. 

    • Typically we run 3-4 calls per person per day and take our time but now people don’t want us in their homes any longer than we have to be so we are rushing more and running more calls per day per person.

  • How was the transition with your office manager working from home?

    • From the administrative side of things not much has changes except every so often you have a kid screaming in the background but customers understand and appreciate that we are doing our part to take care of our employees and them

    • Biggest challenge has come from her no longer being able to run parts to us when we need them while on a job but the rest of the team has been stepping up and taking it on

  • How are you preparing for when this all ends or thinking about mindset now?

    • First and foremost knowing that this will end, but recognizing that it could change behavior for ever.

    • Don’t let the fear surrounding this drive every decision you make

  • How are you managing finances right now?

    • We follow Dave Ramsey’s principles and don’t owe anybody anything and save up to 6 months of expenses becuase life happens and the economy will contract again in the future and you have to be prepared

    • This is the time that exposes broken pieces in companies

    • But let's take a company that has a 10% net profit. That means for every $100 you generating revenue, $10 goes in the bank. Correct. [inaudible] so another way you could think about that is for every $10 you save, that's $100 you don't have to generate in revenue. 

    • It's really powerful to think of it in reverse cause people don't always equate it that way. As easy as it is to spend, you can save too.

  • What are the Dave Ramsey Principles you are talking about?

    • Seven steps; save $1,000 in a starter emergency fund, pay off all debt besides for the house using the debt snowball, save 3-6 months living expenses, invest 50% of your household income into retirement/child’s college fund, pay off your home early, build wealth, and give

LIVE Employee Situations Q&A

  • I have an employee that called out sick last Monday with fever and cough, said he was going to the doctor, went to the doctor on Wednesday, has strep, told them not to come back until fever free. He said he would be in on Monday. Monday came and he didn't show texting to check, said he thought it was Sunday, apologized and said he would be in today. This morning he texted and said he was not feeling well but didn't want to go back to the doctor and admitted that he lied about not knowing what day it was. He's only worked for us for about a month. Normally he would be let go as he's in his probation period. He had missed a couple of days. He had missed a couple of days prior to this. With the new COVID-19 rules, we have to pay him?

    • The new families first act does say that employees, no matter how long they've been with you get two weeks of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related illnesses. So if you have symptoms and you're exploring whether or not this is COVID-19, then that would count, but once you know its a regular  cold or you have twisted your ankle or whatever it is, that's not COVID-19 related. So that's not part of the family's first act. So you should treat people like you've been treating them with regards to attendance and certainly honesty, that's a whole other thing. You don't have to keep dishonest people on payroll. Now that being said, I mean if someone's really ill and they're confused and ill, I mean be empathetic. 

  • With the PPP program, are you going to lose that ability to have the loan forgiven if you drop an employee for breaking policy or something like that? 

    • No, the PPP is looking at your total payroll costs, not which social security numbers were on your payroll. So they're not saying that I have to keep Roland and Alexa, they're just saying I have to keep my payroll the same. So PPP wants you to employ people, they're not concerned about which person. So, you can still discipline people, you can still terminate people. You can then hire someone else and that will increase your payroll. There is nothing written that you would lose ability to have the loan forgiven if you let someone go or fire them.The key is to maintain your payroll costs. So if you normally spend $5,000 a week, you have to keep spending $5,000 a week on payroll. 

  • We have one employee that is scared to work, for fear of bringing the virus home to his family. He is currently off, and has been off for the last two weeks, which I paid him for. He is asking to be laid off until this passes problem is, I have work for him, so not too sure he can get unemployment. I'm not really sure what to do or how to handle it. He's a great employee and I get where he is coming from, but I also have a business to run. What would Mel do?

    • Mel: I would offer the employee an unpaid leave of absence which would maintain them as my employee. I would then also encourage them to apply for unemployment because of not working any hours and that they would just state honestly that although work is available due to my family situation and the current pandemic, I am, you know, uncomfortable accepting work at this time. It sort of becomes more like a temporary layoff or you know what might be called a furlough where you're just not scheduling them any hours, but you are maintaining them as, as your employee and they, they should be able to qualify for unemployment. 

    • If you offer benefits to your employees, your benefit provider may at this time be extending benefits to people who aren't actively clocking hours but still remain your employee. Even up to not working at all. I know our benefits provider, normally you have to work 30 hours to receive benefits that have made at least through May 31st and exception to that, that even if someone's hours were reduced to zero, we would still be able to keep them on our medical plan, which is not the normal situation. So, there could be some good reasons to way just an unpaid leave as opposed to laying them off. 

  • From a cleaning company: Employees are asking for a specific type of mask that is just not available. They're going into empty buildings, empty apartments. They're going in 72 hours after all folks have been gone. Should we be worried about the risk?

    • It sounds like you are doing the right thing to provide the resources that are available, especially if it's no contact with any people that is according to OSHA, is a very low risk occupation at this time. But my recommendation and my answer was to lean in and ask the questions, you know, find out what's going on. It might be that they're feeling like, Hey, maybe this isn't an essential service right now and I don't even wanna leave my house if I don't have to, if it's not essential or maybe they've got three other things that they wish they had that are available that you didn't realize that you could help them with. Have them be part of the solution, usually the people closest to the problem have the best solution. So talk to your team.Ultimately they're the ones that are going to feel comfortable, uncomfortable, regardless of what you either provide them with or not. So let them be the barometer when it comes to that. 

  • So during this COVID-19 time, we're supposed to stay six feet away, how are we supposed to even find field techs to work for us and promote that we're hiring at this time?

    • You want to know where to find them? Supply houses. Everyone's talking about who's laying off. They're everywhere. It's yours for the picking. If you want to find out, just go to a local distributor. Ask them, Hey, what have you heard? They know what's going on. They know who's struggling, who's not, who's laying off and who's hiring

    • Now is a good time to reach out to a tech that was working for your competitor, their GM or maybe their ops manager or someone that you've always had your eye on and say, Hey, what's, what's going on? How are things with you and your family? Just so you know, I've, I've got a lot of work. If you were open to it, I'd be happy to have you. These are good times to reach out and in a very innocent way just ask them.

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Legal disclaimer

Housecall Pro is offering the Coronavirus Evening Update for Home Service Businesses for informational purposes only and to foster thoughtful communication and discussion regarding the COVID-19 pandemic; Housecall Pro is not offering advisory services or otherwise advising or representing any members of the group invited to participate.  Housecall Pro is not offering legal, medical or other professional advice in the Coronavirus Evening Update and makes no representations or warranties regarding the content of the Coronavirus Evening Update. Participants should obtain independent advice relating to their businesses and their particular circumstances.


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