By taking workplace preparedness steps such as updating office layouts, encouraging new behaviors and evaluating existing policies, employers can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of employees. To get started, employers can review topics on this checklist.

– DSP Insurance Services

DSP Insurance Services Return to Work

Illinois Unemployment Benefits and COVID-19-Related Changes: What Employers Need to
Know
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) and the federal government have made
significant changes to the laws governing the availability of unemployment insurance benefits.
These changes, which respond to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,
expand eligibility and provide additional benefits to workers. Below are answers to several
frequently asked questions regarding the recent developments and their effect on Illinois
employers and workforces.

IDES and the “Emergency Rule”

Question 1. Are employees who were temporarily laid off due to COVID-19 eligible for
unemployment benefits?

Answer 1. Yes. Individuals temporarily laid off because their places of employment closed due to
the COVID-19 crisis are eligible for unemployment benefits so long as they meet all the usual
eligibility requirements. Those requirements include being separated from employment through
no fault of their own, being able and available for work, and actively seeking work. Under IDES’s
“emergency rule,” individuals in this situation do not have to register with the employment
service; they are considered to be actively seeking work as long as they are prepared to return
to their jobs as soon as their employers reopen.

Q2. Is an employee who was diagnosed with COVID-19 and forced to stay home eligible
for unemployment benefits?

A2. Yes. Employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who must stay home to care
for spouses, parents, or children diagnosed with COVID-19, are eligible for unemployment
benefits as long as they meet all other eligibility requirements, including being able and available
for work and actively seeking work from the confines of their homes.

Q3. An employee has quit due to COVID-19 concerns. Is this individual eligible for unemployment benefits? 

A3. Generally, no. An employee is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if he or
she leaves work without good reason that is attributable to the employer. The eligibility of an
individual in this situation will depend on whether the facts of his or her case demonstrate the
individual had a good reason for quitting (or volunteering for a layoff) and that the reason was
attributable to the employer. An individual generally has a duty to make a reasonable effort to
work with his or her employer to resolve whatever issues have caused the individual to consider
quitting.

Q4. For how long may an individual receive unemployment benefits?

A4. Illinois law provides eligible individuals with up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. The
federal stimulus package provides individuals with an additional 13 weeks of unemployment
benefits. (See Q&A16.)

Q5. Must an employer provide information on how to obtain unemployment benefits to an
employee who is separated or laid off due to COVID-19?

A5. Yes. Generally, employers are required to provide employees who are laid off or separated
for more than seven days with a pamphlet supplied by IDES, titled, What Every Worker Should
Know About Unemployment Insurance.

Q6. My company does not have “employees” because we work primarily with
independent contractors. Are they eligible for unemployment benefits?

A6. In Illinois, independent contractors are not eligible for unemployment benefits, but the
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and
Economic Security (CARES) Act provides unemployment benefits to assist independent
contractors. (See Q&A16.)

Q7. Would a reduction in weekly hours or “rotational” furloughs trigger unemployment
compensation?

A7. Potentially. To qualify as an “unemployed individual,” the employee must receive “less than
full-time” work in a given week and the employee’s wages must be less than the weekly benefit
amount, which is generally 47 percent of the individual’s average weekly wage with a minimum
of $51 per week and a maximum of $667 per week. The weekly benefit amount depends on
each individual’s compensation and dependent allowances. Thus, in order to qualify, an
individual’s compensation must be reduced such that it falls below 47 percent of his or her
weekly wages. If an employee receives more than the maximum weekly benefit amount for a
given week, he or she is not considered to be unemployed and is not eligible for benefits.
Employers are also implementing alternative reductions in force by, for example, alternating
furloughs where an employee may work only two full weeks or so in a month. Employees who
are subject to these rotational furloughs may be entitled to their weekly benefit amounts without
reduction for the weeks that they are not working. However, it is important to note that this is a
determination that only IDES can make.

Under IDES’s “Emergency Rule,” individuals in either of the foregoing situations do not need to
register with the employment service or actively seek employment.

Q8. Does Illinois participate in a work-sharing program?

A8. No. While there is a work-sharing program in Illinois called the “Short-Time Compensation
Program,” it is not currently active. However, because recent federal legislation creates
incentives for states and employers to implement such programs, Illinois may decide to activate
its program.

Q9. If an employer pays out paid time off (PTO) at the time of separation or layoff, will that
affect an employee’s eligibility or cause a delay in unemployment compensation?

A9. Generally, yes. PTO payments connected to a separation or layoff are generally considered
wages under the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act and may reduce or delay the payment of
benefits. This is also true of paid sick leave and Family and Medical Leave Act payments.

Q10. Are unemployment benefits resulting from a COVID-19–related layoff chargeable to
an employer?

A10. Currently, yes. Employers generally contribute to the cost of benefits for their former
employees. The contribution rate is based, in part, on the amount of unemployment benefits paid
to the employer’s former employees, so this rate may rise if an employer furloughs or lays off
employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Future legislation may change or impact
chargeability.
The CARES Act also provides an additional emergency $600-per-week unemployment
insurance bonus benefit—called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). The
FPUC benefit is wholly funded by the federal government and therefore not chargeable to an
employer. Benefits under FPUC expire four months from the March 27, 2020, enactment of the
CARES Act.

Q11. Can an employer protest a claim?

A11. Yes. An employer has 10 calendar days to protest a claim.

Q12. Can an employer continue to provide fringe benefits, severance pay, 401(k) loans,
and COBRA health insurance coverage following benefits without affecting or delaying an
employee’s unemployment eligibility?

A12.

  • Fringe Benefits
    No, fringe benefits provided to a discharged employee may be considered wages that
    will reduce the individual’s unemployment benefit amount.
  • Severance
    Yes. Severance may be paid periodically or in a lump sum without affecting eligibility.
  • 401(k) Loans
    Yes.
  • COBRA Coverage
    Yes, regardless of whether the individual fully pays for continuing health insurance
    benefits under Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA)
    coverage or the employer partially or totally subsidizes COBRA premiums.

 Q13. Can an employer supplement an employee’s wages while he or she is on
unemployment?

A13. Yes, but it may eliminate or reduce an employee’s benefit amount. An individual is
ineligible for unemployment insurance in any week the individual receives wages that
exceed his or her weekly unemployment benefit amount. If wages do not exceed the
weekly amount, unemployment benefits will be reduced by the amount of wages that
exceeds 50 percent of the weekly unemployment benefit amount. Wages include
bonuses paid after a job separation.

Q14. Can an employer supplement state unemployment benefits?

A14. Yes. Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) payments made by an
employer to a laid-off employee will not affect the individual’s ability to collect
unemployment insurance benefits from the state, as long as the following conditions are
met: (1) the recipient is otherwise eligible to receive state unemployment insurance
benefits; (2) SUB payments are made under a tax-exempt trust agreement or other
contractual plan, which grants the individual a vested right to receive SUB payments
once the conditions set forth in the trust agreement or contractual plan have been
satisfied; and (3) the trust agreement or plan treats each individual in a class of
employees similarly.

Illinois Adopts CARES Act Provisions

Q15. What is the CARES Act?

A15. The CARES Act is a federal law that was recently enacted to address the
economic situation resulting from the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The CARES
Act provides a variety of economic stimulus items, which include federally funded
expansions of states’ traditional unemployment benefits provisions. (Ogletree Deakins
has provided insight into the CARES Act’s unemployment insurance
provisions and related provisions.) Illinois has signed on to participate in the CARES
Act.

Q16. What unemployment benefits are now available for Illinois workers under the
CARES Act?

A16. As noted in Q&A10, the CARES Act provides an additional $600 per week under
the FPUC program, added on to an eligible individual’s weekly unemployment benefit
amount. This FPUC benefit applies to individuals who are eligible for benefits beginning
March 29, 2020 and concluding the week ending July 25, 2020. Individuals who are
eligible for even $1 of unemployment benefits in a given week are eligible for the $600
bonus.
The law also provides the $600 unemployment benefit to Illinois workers who would not
traditionally be eligible for unemployment benefits, but who are now eligible under the
CARES Act’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program (for example, gig
workers and independent contractors), and affected by COVID-19.
Additionally, the CARES Act’s Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
(PEUC) entitles eligible Illinois workers to an additional 13 weeks of unemployment
benefits (on top of whatever duration is already provided for under Illinois state law).

Q17. When will Illinois pay the additional CARES Act FPUC benefits?

A17. The additional $600 per week will be paid to eligible individuals at the same time as
their traditional unemployment benefits. IDES began to pay out these benefits on April 6,
2020. The wait for payment for PUA will be longer for those who would not traditionally
be eligible for unemployment benefits, but who are now eligible under the CARES Act’s
unemployment provisions (again, for example, gig workers and independent
contractors). According to IDES, this benefit may not be available for weeks or months,
because IDES is still developing the systems to be able to handle those applications and
payments.
IDES is in the process of implementing the 13-week extension under the CARES Act, so
there is no timetable for this benefit.

Q18. Could an individual receive more from IDES under state unemployment and
the CARES Act than would be received if he or she kept his or her job?

A18. In theory, yes, but this is a fact-specific question that depends on an individual’s
base weekly compensation and how that compares to the objective amount of $600 per
week.

That does not mean that an employee can quit work to collect unemployment benefits.
IDES has cautioned that an employee who quits work without good cause just to obtain
additional benefits under the regular state unemployment program or the federal
emergency unemployment insurance programs, engages in fraud and could be
subjected to criminal penalties. Similarly, individuals cannot refuse to go back to work to
keep collecting FPUC because they must certify every two weeks that they are able and
available to work. Thus, if they refuse to go back to work, they are no longer eligible for
unemployment benefits, including FPUC.

IDES expects employers to report individuals for fraud if they quit their jobs or do not
want to return to work because they receive more money from unemployment benefits.

Key Takeaways
The State of Illinois and the federal government have provided monetary assistance to
workers experiencing losses or reductions of employment because of COVID-19. In
addition, they have provided incentives to employers to retain their workforces. As much
as an employer may want to highlight these benefits when making difficult decisions
affecting its workforce, it is important to remember that IDES makes the ultimate
determinations regarding unemployment benefits, not the employer. Additionally, the
circumstances for each individual worker will be different, as determined by IDES. For
these reasons, employers may want to refrain from assuring workers of their benefit
amount or eligibility, and instead recommend that workers apply online and determine
their own specific eligibility.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to
the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Critical information for
employers is also available via the firm’s webinar programs.
Ogletree Deakins
Authors:
Melissa A. Ortega
Deborah H. Share
Cyle R. Catlett
Hillary M. Sizer

Illinois Unemployment Benefits and COVID 4-29-20 – ISSA

In this crazy, uncertain time, we hope this finds you and your loved ones well! We know there is a great deal of confusion and challenges brought about by shifting to a remote workforce, and then complicated by including remote interim workers. As we field questions from clients and consultants, we thought we’d share this with you. Rest assured, all consultants have been provided with the Flex Execs policies and procedures as well as briefed on any COVID-19 related actions they should take.

Our goal is to provide useful information that will make your project(s) a success and we hope the following information is helpful as far as onboarding and managing remote contractors/consultants. Please call us with any questions or challenges or if you have any other insights we can share with others. We are all in this together and can make the best of a difficult situation!

Onboarding a new remote consultant:

  • What equipment will they need as well as passwords and who to contact for technical assistance?
  • Number of hours they should work each week?
  • If they have to work overtime, who do they need to contact beforehand to get approval? We recommend this be in writing, email, etc.
  • Are there any reports you want the consultant to complete on a daily/weekly basis?
  • Who do they need to contact when they have a question?
  • Make sure their supervisor lets the consultant/contractor know when they will be available during the day should they have questions.
  • Determine and communicate clear, measurable metrics for acceptable performance. Make sure those are communicated in writing to the consultant and your Flex Execs contact. This will help your managers monitor goals and guide any performance related conversations.

Once a contractor/consultant is set up – here are some tips for a successful project.

Communication

  • How would you like the remote consultant to communicate with others? Phone, email, text, etc.
  • At what point should someone just pick up the phone and call vs. sending multiple emails?
  • How often, and by what method do you want them to communicate with you as far as staying in touch? Is that call, email or video?

Download Our PDF on Getting the most from Remote Consultants

One of our clients with multiple food packaging plants around Chicago called to say they were opening another new plant in the Chicago area.

They did not have the internal resources to handle staffing the entire plant and, as we have often heard from clients, they needed to fill positions quickly. They wanted to know if we were up to the challenge.  Our answer was a definitive “Yes!”

Our Challenge and Our Plan

Our client was going to need to fill approximately 100 positions ranging from line personnel to plant management. The client knew of our strong reputation as a result of having talked with another client who had sought our help and been pleased with the results.

Our first step was to develop a strategy. We needed to know the deadline for filling all positions. Once that was determined, we set about filling positions based upon their priority rankings on our pre-determined list.

We put together a team of recruiters that was headed by an assigned project manager. Each recruiter was given a number of positions to fill and each team had very specific requirements as to the types of individual skills that would be required of successful applicants. Within two weeks we had the first set of candidates ready for interview and our team was ready to assist with reference checks so that job offers could be made within only a few days after the first interviews.

It was a successful result for everyone.

When You Have Critical Recruiting Needs, Call Flex Execs

Flex Execs Management Solutions is ready to help you achieve the same outstanding results. Need to fill large quantities of positions in a short time frame? Contact us directly to get started today.

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flex execs selecting best references

If you are contemplating a job change, you likely will think first about your resume. But what about your references? If you haven’t already started building a list of potential references, now is the time to start. It is always wise to stay connected with former managers so when you need a reference, you can advise them and they will be ready and willing to provide it.

Choose Your References Wisely

Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that even in the hiring process for middle management and executive-level positions, references play a key role. Therefore, who you pick as a reference could be the difference when it comes time for a hiring decision to be made.

When thinking of references, you should have a manager at each of the jobs you have worked at for the past seven years. You should also think about potential references who you supported as an internal client or worked directly with. The references you choose should have a deep understanding of your experience and should be seen as highly-credible professionals whose reference carries weight.

You don’t just want your reference to recommend you for any job; you want him or her to recommend you for the specific job or type of job you are seeking. Make sure the references you select can attest to your skills that make you a great fit for a certain position.

What won’t work for you are references who give vague or bland descriptions of your general traits and attributes. You can boost the strength of your reference letters by giving those you have chosen as references written details of your credentials. This can come in handy if you are selecting a professional reference who you haven’t worked with in a long time.

Don’t Limit Communication with References to the Application Process

Having gone to the trouble to get a group of great references, keep your references informed if you know employers you are interviewing with will be reaching out. If your best reference might be out of the country or otherwise unable to receive an email, you will want to let your future employer know that fact and offer a time when you know the reference will be available.

Maintaining your professional contacts is important even after you find new employment. Networking can’t be limited to just when you need assistance with a job reference from your contacts. After you land the job, let your references know and be sure to thank them for speaking on your behalf.

When It’s Time for a Change, Think of Flex Execs

Are you looking for a managerial opportunity in the Chicago area? Flex Execs Management Solutions specializes in placing interim HR, marketing, finance and operations professionals with some of the area’s most prominent companies. Contact us today to start your search!

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flex execs servant leadership

When you hear the term “servant leadership,” you might ask what the term means and how it could apply to you in your job.  Perhaps you wonder if it would work in your role as the leader of a team.

The term itself comes from an essay written in 1970 by Robert Greenleaf. His thesis was that under servant leadership, the leader sets direction for the team and then gives them the support they need to accomplish the goals that have been set.

Is your team in need of a new full-time or interim manager in HR, marketing, finance or operations? Flex Execs Management Solutions can help you find the right person for your organization. How could a servant-leader benefit your team?

How Servant Leadership Works

Done as it was intended, servant leadership facilitates a strong corporate culture by building creativity and teamwork. Under this type of policy a CEO is saying, “I hired you for your skills; I’m trusting you to deliver.” This still means that a leader adopting this principle is always alert. Trust can be broken. The leader, however, will realize that a business generally thrives when people are trusted to do their jobs and given the resources and assistance to deliver the best work they can.

Steven Covey who wrote the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, once said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

Servant Leaders Are Highly Active

To be effective, servant leaders must know what is going on. The leader stays in contact with the staff but now has more freedom to stay on top of the industry and gather the information that will keep the organization competitive. At Flex Execs, we meet this type of executive often.

A CEO who has chosen to be a servant leader is fully knowledgeable about the functions of the staff and can work to bring two functions together in order to create cohesion and cooperation.

A servant leader needs humility to accept that she doesn’t always have the answer, and that leader needs the expertise to know when he or she must step in.

Servant Leaders Lead Highly Successful Businesses

The popular grocery store Wegmans, which has its home offices in New York State, is known for this style of leadership, and the company consistently makes Fortune’s Top 100 Companies to Work For list.   Currently, they are #2 on that same list. They are known for empowering employees to make decisions and have grown because of it.

Whatever Your Leadership Style, We Can Help

Flex Execs Management Solutions has been helping businesses find interim managers with strong leadership skills for over 28 years. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business.

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flex execs personal hiring process

Ask almost anyone today and he or she will tell you how impersonal the world has become. It doesn’t have to be that way during the hiring process. In fact, making the hiring process more personal makes it more likely to get a positive response from a well-qualified job candidate.

Making Hiring Personal

According to an American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor Survey, 69 percent of Americans feels the job search today is too impersonal and 80 percent say that applying for a job feels like sending their resume into a black box.

The fact is that experienced candidates won’t leave a good job unless they have a true sense of what their new job and that job setting involves.  They want – and need – to connect with those they will soon be working with. Taking a new job can make anyone fearful of making a poor choice. Just as you would not buy a house after only seeing the neighborhood once, you wouldn’t be likely to take a new job if you had only minimal contact with your potential new environment.

Building Genuine Connections with Candidates

Before the interview, send them an email with interesting information on the company. Why would someone want to work for your business? Get them excited about the organization before they even meet with anyone. Was there a recent acquisition which shows the company continues to grow? Did they win some type of best employer award? What are employees saying about the organization?

When the candidate is there for an interview, bringing them into the conference room and introducing a few future co-workers should not be the only way you consider encouraging a “yes” from a qualified candidate. Think outside the box.

  • Use tech to your advantage and respond promptly to candidate concerns or questions using tech. If a candidate leaves your office and later has a question, can he or she get a response to that question from you or a staff member by sending an email? Unanswered questions leave doubt and doubt in a candidate’s mind can lead to a negative response to a job offer. Employers who can make applicants feel as though they’re getting personalized, one-on-one treatment will have an edge over competitors.
  • Choose 2 peers and/or direct reports to the position and provide the candidate with their email or phone number where they can be reached to discuss the company outside the interview process.
  • Send candidates a thank-you email or card after the interview advising them how much you appreciated their time and that a decision will be made by a certain date, keeping them advised on the timeline for the hiring process. It is critical that you advise all candidates that you phone screen or interview the final outcome.
  • Invite candidates to join a video conference with a portion of your team. Let them see and hear on a first-hand basis what your employees experience on a regular basis.
  • Depending on the position, consider offering a “one day in the role” opportunity where they can experience the role and how the team works together before they accept the offer. This is not for all jobs but could be beneficial in some instances.

Let Flex Execs Help You Personalize Your Hiring Process

Flex Execs Management Solutions has helped companies in the Chicago area and beyond find high-quality managers for over 28 years. What can we do to help you succeed in the hiring process? Contact us today to learn more.

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