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Dupaco staff in action Before the pandemic, Deb Ryan works from her desk at Dupaco’s Williams Boulevard branch in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (B. Kaplan photo)

Returning to work? These resources can help

Are you returning to work?

“Many businesses are starting to reopen their doors, and that means many individuals will begin transitioning back to workplaces,” said Dupaco’s Katie McClain, human resources manager.

It’s understandable if you’re feeling uneasy about heading back.

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of knowing what to expect.

Find answers to these questions below:

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to provide its workers with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified pandemic-related reasons, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Employers that must offer paid leave include:

  • Certain public employers
  • Private employers with fewer than 500 employees

Small businesses with fewer than 50 workers might not be subject to the law if the paid leave requirements jeopardize the business’ ability to function.

If your employer falls under this law, you’re eligible for two weeks of paid sick time for the specified COVID-19 reasons, the bureau said.

And if you’ve worked there for at least 30 days, you’re eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances.

What are those specified reasons?

The law provides you with paid leave if you’re unable to work or telework because you are:

  • Under a quarantine order related to COVID-19.
  • Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19.
  • Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • Caring for someone who is under a quarantine order.
  • Caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19.

What sick leave benefits does the law offer?

Your paid leave depends on your reason for leave and how long you’ve been with your employer. You’ll need to communicate your request with your employer.

The U.S. Department of Labor said you typically receive:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at your regular rate of pay if you’re quarantined or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds your regular rate of pay if you need to care for someone under quarantine or a child whose school or childcare provider is closed due to COVID-19.
  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds your regular rate of pay if you’ve worked there for at least 30 days and must care for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed due to COVID-19.

What happens to my unemployment benefits if I’m unable or not ready to return?

If your employer recalls you to work in Iowa and you refuse to return without good reason, you will lose eligibility to your unemployment benefits, including the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation weekly benefit of $600, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

There are exceptions:

  • You’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms.
  • Your healthcare provider advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  • You’ve recovered, but it caused medical complications rendering you unable to perform essential job duties.
  • A member of your household has diagnosed COVID-19.
  • You’re providing care for a member of your household who’s diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You don’t have childcare due to COVID-19 reasons.
  • You don’t have transportation to your workplace because of COVID-19.

“Employees in any of these positions are strongly encouraged to work with their employer in the best way to handle the situation to return to work,” Iowa Workforce Development advised.

If you return to work on a part-time basis, you might still be eligible for benefits depending on the wages you earn. Iowa Workforce Development encourages you to continue filing your weekly claims and report the gross wages you earned each week.

I’m concerned about returning to work. What can I do?

You likely have questions about returning to work.

Is it safe to go back? What will the “new normal” look like?

Communication between you and your employer is key during this time, McClain said.

“If you haven’t heard from your employer about the transition, reach out and talk to your HR representative or your supervisor,” she said. “Organizations are trying to be thoughtful and safe and smart about this transition. Ask questions that will help you prepare to return, and seek to understand what’s needed of you when you return to work.”

Sometimes, just knowing the plan can help put your concerns at ease.

Here are some questions you can ask your employer to help you prepare for what’s next:

  • If I’m not able to return, do I qualify for any additional paid leave benefits?
  • Is it possible for me to perform my work responsibilities from home?
  • When do you expect me to return to the workplace?
  • How will my responsibilities change?
  • How will my responsibilities remain the same?
  • Will there be a staggered approach or schedule to employees returning?
  • Will Personal Protective Equipment, like masks, face shields and gloves, be required?
  • If so, who is responsible for providing the protective equipment?
  • What initiatives are taking place in the workplace environment that I need to be aware of?

You can use these questions as a starting point. What other information would help give you peace of mind? Ask those questions, too.

What other resources can help me during this time?

Beyond your employer, many organizations are providing ongoing communication about the pandemic and its impact on businesses and workers.

You can turn to these groups for more guidance:

If you live outside of these areas, visit your community’s chamber of commerce website to find information related to your region.