Associated Industries of Massachusetts announced this morning that it is making its toll-free Employer Hotline (1.800.470.6277) temporarily available to any employer seeking human resource and management assistance in the wake of Wednesday’s tornadoes in western and central Massachusetts.
The Hotline is usually open only to AIM member companies.
“Employers impacted by the storms are about to find out that cleaning up debris and replacing inventory are just the beginning of the challenges they will face in getting their companies back up and running. They will also face complex human resource and management issues and AIM is pleased to help,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer.
Here are some of the issues that may confront companies as they work to get back up and running:
- Recordkeeping- Were your personnel records damaged or displaced? If so, you will need to recreate them as soon as possible. Hopefully you have stored many of the forms electronically or you can work with your employees to create new forms. The bigger challenge may be to recreate discipline-related forms. If any unique files were damaged, ask the supervisor who created it to reprint it for the file.
- Unemployment Insurance - If your company has been put out of business or is facing a lengthy shutdown due to the storm, you will need to inform your employees of their rights under the Unemployment Insurance law. The UI notification form is available at www.mass.gov/dua. Remember that individuals are eligible for UI following a one-week waiting period.
- Workers compensation – If one of your employees was hurt by the storm while working, he or she may be eligible for workers compensation. Fill out the First Report of Injury Form (Form 101), and provide copies to your workers compensation insurer, the employee and the Department of Industrial Accidents. Don’t forget to contact fellow employees who may have witnessed the event to ask them to write a statement. Have the employee names ready in case the insurer wants to interview them. Don’t forget, if a person goes out on workers compensation, the employee may be eligible for job protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Wages – If you sent one or more employees home early you may be liable for show-up pay. The law requires the employer to pay an employee for up to three hours if the employee shows up ready to work and the employer sends him/her home before three hours have passed. The employee must be paid straight time for any time actually worked and at least minimum wage for all other time between hours worked and three hours. If you have workers come in to help with post-storm clean up you will need to track time to make sure you pay any overtime possibly due. Overtime triggers under Massachusetts law after 40 hours in one work week.
- Pay continuation - If you elect to offer your employees some form of pay continuation while you are closed, you should decide if you want to treat it as wages or charge it against their vacation or paid time off allotment.
- Benefit continuation plans – if you lay employees off, or reduce their hours enough to make them ineligible for health benefits, they may have benefit-continuation rights under COBRA or Massachusetts Mini-COBRA law. Be prepared to provide them with a COBRA election notice.
- Data back-up – If you haven’t already done it, now is the time to look into a data back-up system to ensure data protection. Protection of data is especially important under the data security law.
- Leaves of Absence – Your employees may need a leave of absence to cope with damage or destruction to their personal belongings or family members. This may be the moment to extend a personal leave of absence to allow them to cope with the tragedy.
- Employee Assistance Program – If you have an EAP, make sure that your employees are aware of it and how to access it.