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How to Handle Summer Vacations During COVID-19 Pandemic

July 9, 2020

By Linda Olejniczak courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Summer means vacation time in Michigan.  ASE is receiving many questions regarding what happens when employees return from their trips.

  • How do I protect our workplace from exposure to COVID-19 when employees return?
  • Do we enact quarantine after travel?
  • Will every employee have to quarantine or only employees that were in a hot spot?
  • Do I pay my employees to quarantine? 

In a recent ASE poll, 100% of companies responded they have no change in the vacation approval process, and 40% are allowing employees to rollover vacation to 2021.

Without governmental directives, employers should design a travel-related policy that makes sense for their workforce.  Consider factors such as when the employee returns to work what is their ability to social distance while working, can they work remotely?  Also consider the rate of infection in the workplace community and the area to which the employee traveled. The CDC does not recommend quarantine unless someone is traveling internationally.

If you do decide to enforce a quarantine after travel, employers should communicate their policy before employees take a vacation. Virus hot spots change daily, and exposure to COVID-19 can happen regardless of the mode of transportation or location. Ensure your policy is administered consistently, watch for changes in public health policy, CDC guidance, or state, local, federal, or international orders.  For example, the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are requiring people traveling into their states from states with high rates of the coronavirus to quarantine for 14 days.  

As with any other workplace rule, employers must enforce the screening requirements consistently.  If determined that your employees must quarantine after vacation travel, they will have to rely on existing time off benefit programs during their leave if remote work is not possible.

If they have PTO to rely on, employees can use PTO for the quarantine period.  If they are out of PTO, it can be unpaid for hourly non-exempt and exempt if entire week is lost and they cannot work remote.

If they have symptoms and are ordered home, they can still use unused EFMLA and EPSL benefits.

To help employees make a well-informed decision about whether to travel, the CDC has created a set of  guidelines about issues to consider before traveling, including questions to ask before making plans, risks associated with types of travel, and links to sites for state and local travel restrictions.  

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