HR & Unemployment Guidance

The Small Business Association of Michigan is committed to helping business owners navigate the very complex and very fluid issues regarding the COVID-19 crisis. These FAQs are meant to serve as a guide. Please consult your attorney or HR professional.

Members can also utilize the SBAM Ask An Expert hotline or simply email for assistance. 

Guidance from the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity

Click here to view the slides from a presentation given by the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) regarding Work Share program, employer information and employer filed claims

LEO also provided employer updates and guidance on these questions below. Click here for details.

1. I have a cash flow problem and need liquidity.

2. I need to cut back hours for my employees.

3. I need to lay off workers on a temporary basis.

Hr & Unemployment Guidance

HR Guidance

Coronavirus Employee Rights PosterWhere do I post the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Notice? Since most of my workforce is teleworking, where do I electronically “post” this notice?

Each covered employer must post a notice of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises. An employer may satisfy this requirement by emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees, or posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website.

Click here for more FAQ on this topic.

Click here for a PDF of the poster.

Unemployment Guidance

Beginning March 29, 2020, please use the following guideline to file unemployment claims:

Click here for a guidance sheet provided by the state department for Michigan employers contemplating potential layoffs related to COVID-19.

If I have hourly employees that work various hours depending on the work load, how do I calculate their wages?

Whatever their regular rate of pay was before their hours were reduced due to coronavirus and then use the 2/3rd their regular rate that would be capped in the aggregate.

I have owners that are also employees but now cannot work remotely. Can they go on FMLA or are they exempt?

If the owners were reported on the quarterly report of wages they would pass the first qualification test. Secondly the UI applicant must be looking for and available for work. The emergency sick paid act local quarantine or isolation order requires employers to provide that benefit after all paid sick time off benefits apply.

If team members have already filed for unemployment and now should be FMLA, what process do I take to get them on the right path?

FMLA only matters for those with school age kids. For the rest of the employees, UIA is the only answer. I believe that leave of absence without pay is an internal designation. The unemployment filing does not delineate, so as long as your records show them as on leave, they should still qualify, even though they filed for Unemployment. 

Can FMLA and Unemployment Insurance be leveraged together?

No. If the employee is laid off, there is no FMLA. If the employee is having reduced hours (furlough), FMLA may apply for the reduced hours if the employee is sick or otherwise taking care of an family member. The new law being proposed will allow a specific definition of FMLA for the COVID-19.

How can I help my employees file for unemployement?

Should you need to help direct your employees on claiming unemployment due to layoffs as a result of the coronavirus, according to the Office of Employer Ombudsman (OEO), direct your employees to Once on the web page, refer to "Fact Sheet 160 - Claiming Unemployment Benefits in Michigan."

Regarding the Governor's Executive Order on Expanding Unemployment Benefits for Michigan Workers 

Read the full EO here

  • Does the 80 hours of paid sick leave have to be in addition to current sick leave or if we already had it in place and they had 80 hours starting 1/1/2020, are we compliant?

    • Those who already offer 80 hours of sick leave are compliant.

  • How will the employer be assessed for unemployment benefits for employees terminated/laid off due to COVID-19?

    • As the executive order was written only businesses who have been ordered to shut down by executive order will have relief or no rating impact when it comes to employees filing for unemployment.

  • The MiWAM waiver we submit is limited to 45 days, but the policy lasts 120 days. If this goes on past 45 days, we'll have to file for extension.

    • According to MiWAM for Employers: "If you are an employer temporarily laying off workers, you can request a waiver of the work registration and seeking work requirements for your laid off worker(s). This waiver can only be requested if you expect work to be available within 45-days of the individual’s last day of work and must be requested prior to the individual becoming payable for benefits. To request this waiver, employers can log into their Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) at and click on the Seeking Work Waiver link. Employers will be required to enter the business’s employee’s last day worked and back to work date. If the laid off worker does not return to work within 45-days of the last day worked, the individual will need to register for work and begin looking for work. The waiver cannot be extended and late waiver requests or requests submitted without the required information will not be granted. For questions or assistance, contact the Office of Employer Ombudsman online through your MiWAM account or at 855.484.2636.

How do I communicate a layoff?

The American Society of Employers has a sample script you can use to speak with your employee(s). 

Can a sole proprietor file for unemployment?

Following are the general rules pertaining to eligibility for unemployment compensation. There may be exceptions or other available unemployment insurance programs that a sole proprietor my elect to participate in. Please contact Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency for more information.

Michigan’s unemployment compensation law provides required coverage to workers that the employer reports on its quarterly wage report to the state.  Only workers reported (as required) are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits upon loss of work. Further, a worker that becomes unemployed and eligible for unemployment benefits must be searching for and available for work.

Sole proprietors that work under a legal corporation structure and are paid by that entity may be eligible for benefits if their wages are being reported (and taxed) under state and federal law and they otherwise qualify (meet the required benefit week and income eligibility level). Sole proprietors that are not reporting their wages  because as sole proprietors they are not necessarily required to do so would  not be eligible to receive benefits. Further, as stated above any claimant that may be eligible for unemployment benefits must also be searching for and available for other employment.  This may be a barrier to the owner that is dedicated to his or her own business while unemployed.               

To summarize: 1. The business owner must be an employee of his or her company and have reported (and paid taxes) that they are being paid wages as an employee and 2. Be looking for and available for work. This would have to be work beyond work associated with their own business.

The State is also seeking solutions for self-employed workers and independent contractors who traditionally do not have access to unemployment insurance. The governor has requested that President Trump issue a Major Disaster Declaration so that Individual Assistance and Disaster Unemployment Assistance through FEMA may be made available to additional Michiganders affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

How will my business be impacted if I need to layoff workers?

State Provides Guidance to Employers Contemplating Potential Layoffs

Under the governor’s order, unemployment benefits would be extended to: 

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill. 

  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off. 

  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19. 

Under the order, an employer or employing unit must not be charged for unemployment benefits if their employees become unemployed because of an executive order requiring them to close or limit operations.  

What is work share?

Work Share is a program that permits employers to maintain operational productivity during declines in regular businss activity rather than laying off workers. Learn more here