Vacation because of the virus? Here’s what you need to know

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Company from the hotel giant Marriott Retailers like JCPenney are turning to vacations as the coronavirus pandemic affects everything from travel to shopping in stores More than 40 countries are now placing orders to stay at home. Millions of US workers are now concerned about the fact that the coronavirus has virtually brought the economy to a standstill and nearly 25 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the past five weeks.

This makes workers question what it means to go on vacation. The simple answer: “It’s a mandatory, temporary, unpaid vacation,” said Misty Guinn, director of benefits and wellness at benefit software company Benefitfocus.

Vacation days may be unfamiliar to most private sector employees and their families, as they were last tapped by the United States government during budget dead ends rather than companies that have faced mass layoffs for a long time in difficult times.

“Many of us know what” fired “means. Many people may have been in this situation all their lives,” said Guinn. “Companies are looking for vacations because they help cut labor costs without adding new ones.”

For example, companies that fire workers typically pay for severance and outplacement services and can pay later if they are willing to recruit. Vacation days, however, do not entail these costs and could help companies to quickly get back up to date when they can put their employees online again.

Macy’s, Kohl’s, Gap leave thousands of workers on leave as the pandemic worsens

However, according to labor and employment lawyer David Barron, there are many questions about how vacation works, as it can vary from company to company.

Here you will find the basics and questions you should ask your employer when you are on vacation.

Vacation against dismissal?

A vacation means “You’re still an employee – there’s just no job,” said Barron. It is different from layoffs, which usually indicates that a company is permanently firing workers and is likely to remove their positions.

When employees are on leave, they generally lose their income during the period when they are not working. After the vacation has ended and the workers have started working again, they usually start again with the same income and the same job position as before the vacation.

In comparison, a dismissed worker can receive a severance payment from his previous employer, otherwise the company will stop paying.

Can workers on leave collect unemployment?

Yes, said Michelle Armer, Chief People Officer at CareerBuilder. However, the amount of unemployment benefit to which workers on leave are entitled varies from state to state, she added.

“It is important to note that the difference between a vacation and a layoff does not matter for unemployment benefits, as unemployment generally takes into account every working week and whether or not an employee earns money to determine eligibility,” said Armer.

Vacationers are entitled to the additional $ 600 a week in federal unemployment benefits approved by the EU $ 2 trillion stimulus package passed by law last month. As soon as a worker on leave returns to work, these benefits would end.

When should I register for unemployment?

Guinn advised unemployment records on the first day of your vacation. Usually there is a waiting period of one week before unemployment assistance starts after registration, but many states waive these delays.

Many workers on leave, of course report problems Submission of unemployment applications because government agencies are overwhelmed by those seeking help.

Millions are still waiting for checks as the rise in unemployment claims leads to a backlog

“First of all, I tell my customers that if you want to go online, set your alarm to 2:33 a.m. or a little out of business hours so you can get in,” said Scott Warrick, a human resources specialist and lawyer.

The good news, Guinn said, is that your benefits will be paid to you retrospectively once you are registered for unemployment. In other words, if the government needs additional time to process your application due to the increasing number of workers applying for unemployment, your first performance review should cover you from the time of your vacation.

“It may take a few weeks for this check to arrive, but it starts on the first day of your vacation,” she said.

What about my health insurance?

It depends on your company, but HR professionals and employment lawyers say that most companies that take workers on leave continue their health plans. However, this depends on your employer and its guidelines.

A woman who has lost her job is waiting at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on April 6, 2020, for unemployment reporting after a coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19).

Nick Oxford / REUTERS


Health insurance should be the most important issue for workers on leave as “there is currently no really good process to take out health insurance,” said Barron.

For example, not all health exchanges offered under the Affordable Care Act are currently open to registration with the Trump administration Decision against reopening them during the pandemic. At least nine states, including New York and California, have reopened their ACA exchanges in the past few weeks. Check with your state to see if it is one of them.

Some workers on leave may qualify for health insurance through COBRA, although this option is often expensive for workers. Another option is to join your spouse or partner’s health insurance if possible.

Can I find another job?

Vacation workers have the right to find additional work, said Armer from CareerBuilder. “Workers on leave who do not want to leave their jobs permanently may find part-time work in grocery stores or in hiring stores.”

What questions should I ask my employer?

Make sure you know how to stay in touch with your employer and who to contact if you have problems with health and other issues in the coming weeks, Guinn said.

Make sure you know how your company will notify you when a vacation ends or is extended. As workers on leave are not allowed to work for their employer while on vacation, they may have to provide their employers with contact information other than business email and cell phones.

“This uncertainty can increase stress and fear of what’s going on,” said Guinn.