Yesterday, Governor Baker – along with many other governors across the country – ordered all non-essential businesses to close any brick-and-mortar locations, including stores, offices, factories, and warehouses, by today (Tuesday, March 24) at noon.  Here’s what the shut-down order means for your business:

  1. Essential Businesses Can Remain Open; Everyone Else Must Close

Essential businesses are those businesses directly involved in fighting COVID-19, providing food and critical services to the public, or providing support to essential businesses.  A list of essential businesses is available here:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-essential-services

If you do not see your industry listed here but believe it is an essential business, you can apply for essential business designation here:

https://www.mass.gov/forms/essential-service-designation-request

If you do not qualify as an essential business, you must close all physical locations by noon today.  Remote work is permitted and encouraged.

Businesses who do not comply with the order may face criminal penalties and/or civil fines.

  1. Expanded Options for Shutdown Unemployment

Please see our prior newsletter on options for paying workers during a shutdown here.  If your workforce can work remotely, you can continue with ordinary payroll.  If you need to close your office/facilities this week, all salaried employees who have already worked this week must be paid for the entire week.  Hourly employees can be paid for hours actually worked this week.

If you need to close your business entirely during the shutdown, Department of Unemployment Assistance (“DUA”) has created a special category for COVID-19 closures and temporary layoffs, including closures due to this shutdown.  For temporary layoffs due to COVID-19, DUA is waiving the one-week wait for workers to be eligible for benefits.  Employees do not need to look for work during the unemployment period, but they must stay in contact with their employers and be available to return to work when business reopens.

  1. Final Paychecks and Accrued Vacation

Ordinarily, employers would need to pay out all accrued, unused vacation on the day an employee is laid off.  The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has stated that they will allow employees to voluntarily agree to save their accrued PTO for later use, rather than being paid out for a temporary shutdown.

Employers are still required to pay out any earned wages up through an employee’s last day of work on their final day, even when heading into a temporary layoff period.

  1. Health Insurance and Other Employee Benefits

DUA will allow employees to remain on their employer’s benefits during a temporary layoff.  We recommend that you contact your benefits provider directly to see what the options are under your plan for continuing to provide benefits to your employees.

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Please reach out to us directly with any questions about how the shutdown affects your workforce.  We will do our best to keep you informed during this rapidly-changing situation.