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MIOSHA WORKING ON NEW COVID-19 RULES
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has started the formal rulemaking process to continue its efforts to mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. As you know, MIOSHA issued Emergency Rules in October 2020. Although those Emergency Rules are currently set to expire on April 14, 2021, they may yet be extended for an additional 6 months.
MIOSHA is also exploring more permanent rules that could last beyond a 6-month extension through the formal rulemaking process. This formal rulemaking process will continue to focus on a safe transition back to a more normal work environment while keeping the workplace and employees safe. Their formal rules would be in effect until they are no longer necessary—which means there is no set expiration date like we see with the Emergency Rules. MIOSHA created a new standards advisory committee that will review and revise the draft rules in the coming weeks.
For now, to comply with the Emergency Rules, if your employees returned to an in-person workplace, make sure to:
- Have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan;
- Provide employee training on workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of PPE, and the steps to take if the employee has symptoms of or is diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Exclude sick employees from the workplace and carry out deep cleaning in cases of known COVID-19 exposure in the workplace; and
- Comply with any industry-specific requirements.
Be mindful of the quarantine and isolation periods required by Public Act 339, as you apply these standards in the workplace to comply with MIOSHA’s Emergency Rules.
CHANGES TO UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT ELIGIBILITY AND CHARGING TO EMPLOYER ACCOUNTS
There have been a variety of temporary changes and expansions to the unemployment program to assist Michigan citizens since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the temporary Michigan unemployment claims cost-sharing and expansions in eligibility expired on March 31, 2021—most notably, the end of “non-charging” employer accounts. Review here the biggest changes in place!
28-day Late Filing Deadline Eliminated. Employees no longer have 28 days from their last day of work to file an on-time claim. Returning to the pre-COVID-19 rules, new or additional unemployment claims must be filed within 14 days of the claimant’s last workday to be considered an on-time filing.
COVID-19 Related Reasons Insufficient Grounds for Traditional Unemployment Basis. The following reasons are no longer acceptable grounds for leaving work for medical reasons and therefore will not make employees eligible for unemployment benefits:
- Immunocompromised people who are self-isolating or self-quarantining due to an elevated risk of getting COVID-19.
- People displaying one or more principal COVID-19 symptoms.
- People who were in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
- Caregivers for someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
- People with a family care responsibility due to a government directive.
If the UIA determined a claimant was eligible before March 28, 2021, for one of these reasons, that employee remains eligible for benefits.
Additionally, people disqualified under the Michigan program may still be eligible for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). We expect that most employees who miss work for those reasons can qualify for PUA benefits through the federal government, but those employees must apply specifically for PUA benefits, which is different than traditional unemployment benefits.
Relaxed Work Share Program Eligibility. Work Share Program rules were relaxed and adjusted in 2020, but employers using a Work Share plan must now again meet the traditional requirements including:
- Employee hours/wages may be reduced by a minimum of 15% and a maximum of 45%.
- Must have a positive reserve experience account balance.
- Must have paid wages for at least 12 of the previous quarters.
This change back to the traditional requirements does not affect employers with a previously approved Work Share program in place. However, when that plan expires, make sure your plan meets the traditional requirements if you want to continue using the Work share program.
“Non-charging” Accounts. Instead of automatically charging the UIA’s Non-Chargeable Benefits Account (NBA), your direct account will be charged again for employees who are laid off or placed on a leave of absence. The charging will revert back to standard calculations. Simply put, the agency is no longer charging benefits to the UIA NBA account, and you will begin to be charged again when employees (laid off, resigning, etc.) are deemed eligible for benefits.
While our employment law experts will certainly keep you updated:
- Watch carefully as MIOSHA considers whether to extend the current Emergency Rules and promulgates new, longer lasting rules!
- Consider each unemployment benefit claim that comes before you very carefully to ascertain which rules apply and whether you will be charged for the benefits that may be issued.
- If you are thinking of starting a Work Share plan or planning to renew your current plan, make sure that the plan complies with the traditional Work Share eligibility requirements.
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