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The FFCRA Act for Small and Mid-Sized Businesses - An Interview with Sidney Bruce with Everee

Overview
I have known Sidney Bruce for several years. She's currently the Head of Customer Success + HR at Everee. In this interview, we go over the practical application of the FFCRA. With so much COVID-19 information out there, we try to cut through the fluff and get to the heart of the FFCRA. We have also included a link the calculator Everee has put together.   


FFCRA Calculator: https://everee.com/blog/ffcra-leave-eligibility-calculator/

Michael Sayre

This is In Your Business with Michael Sayre. A production of CUI Wealth Management. In this episode, we interviewed Sydney Bruce with Everee. We talked about the FFCRA and the importance of practical application of the FFCRA versus regurgitation of information.  We also talked about staying strong as a business leader during the COVID19 Pandemic. I hope you get something out of this. I hope you enjoy it.

Sidney, why don't you go ahead and briefly introduce yourself. 


Sidney Bruce

For sure. Thanks, Michael. I'm excited to be on your podcast today. My background is primarily in Human Resources and I'm most recently with Everee, which is a full-service payroll provider. But Michael, you and I worked together back in my days at CW Group when I was the Human Resource director there. My focus has primarily been with small businesses that either don't have an HR department or it's an office manager. A lot of us HR professionals kind of go that route where you don't go directly into Human Resources thinking, "Hey, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life." You kind of fall into it, which is kind of what happened to me. I was working on the finance side of things and it was like, "Oh, take this and take that." And then the next thing you know, we have a full-blown HR department. So, I love it. It's perfect. It suits me. I think when what you love and what your great at combines, that's when you know you're in the right role and I feel like anything to do with human capital is definitely my jam.


Michael Sayre

Sidney, tell us a little bit about HR. Why does HR excite you? Why are you in HR?


Sidney Bruce

I got into Human Resource is because I love people. And I guess you could say maybe I didn't know really what I want to be when I grew up. Because in HR you're kind of an attorney a little bit- you got to know all the laws and regulations. You're a therapist, you're a career coach- a little bit of everything. But what it comes down to is just being able to, help people realize their potential. And that's really what I love to do. For me, HR is all about that. It's about helping every person in the organization be able to be their best selves. And I love what I do daily because I get to do that.


Michael Sayre

Absolutely. One thing that we've talked about is how there's a lot of companies that are big enough that they need some support with HR. But they are not big enough that they are ready to go out and say, hire someone full-time as an HR professional. Can kind of go over that a little bit.


Sidney Bruce

Yeah, absolutely. At Everee, where I am at right now, I run our internal HR department and also the HR advising. A lot of our clients are small businesses and, like you just said they don't have an HR director, or it'll be an office manager who is now responsible for these little HR functions here and there. But it's interesting because now, with the pandemic and everything that's going on, these small businesses who have never really had a huge focus on their human capital or their HR policies, procedures, and things like that are now being exposed to regulations that they hadn't been in the past.  I spend a lot of my time, at least the last, let’s say, 60 days, helping these small businesses kind of navigate these waters that, most of them, haven't ever had to focus on in the past.


Michael Sayre

Yeah, that is a great point. I think there is a lot of new things that have come down the pipeline. Everyone's got in the back of their mind, the laws around sexual harassment, and people are aware that they need to pay attention to how they're hiring and how they're firing in the communication that's put out there.  This is a totally different ball game because this is new legislation that has just recently come out, and this is something that is impacting quite a few businesses.


Sidney Bruce

Some huge changes. Like the FFCRA Act that just went into effect on April 1st of this year. That's a perfect example of exactly what we're seeing. It's essentially an expansion of FMLA, which up until this point only governed companies that had 50 or more employees. Now it's companies of 500 or less that are trying to sort through these new regulations and figure out how is this eligibility going to affect my company and employees? They have never had to focus on that before. It's uncharted territory as far as the regulations that they're now exposed to. But also, for employees too.  None of us have ever gone through anything like this before. At least I don't think so. It's new and it's difficult. My goal and what I've been trying to do is just make sure that I can be an extra set of hands or, you know, just a phone call away when you have these one-off scenarios. To talk through these regulations and give you some practical application tools to be able to figure out how it's going to affect your company.


Michael Sayre

We were talking about this before we jumped on this podcast. There is a lot of information out there. There is so much information you probably have a spam folder full of emails about COVID19. There is a little bit of a disconnect because that information doesn't necessarily show you what you should be doing as a business owner; what the real world looks like.


Sidney Bruce

Yeah, my inbox is just out of control with COVID-19 things. Whether it's emails from a company that I bought something from years and years ago. Just letting you know, "Hey, we're in this together" which is great. Or these different webinars and information sheets. And, it's great because I do need to understand this information. But, a lot of it just seems like it's just downloaded directly from government websites on this.  It's like, okay, I could go on and read this on my own. But how do I answer these questions when I have employees coming into my office on a Friday afternoon saying, "Hey, I can't come to work on Monday because my childcare facility is now closed until May. So, what do I do?" Having these laws memorized is one thing. Applying them to your business is completely different.


Michael Sayre

That brings us to another question. What have you seen that's affecting businesses right now from your role? From your perspective,


Sidney Bruce

The number one question that I'm getting is how to handle this FFCRA regulation and how it applies to the employees. If they can take leave or if they can't take leave. I'm getting questions about things that aren't governed yet. Like, "I've got an employee who has not been exposed to COVID-19."  or their childcare facility is still open, however, they're taking care of someone who's high risk or they believe themselves that they're high risk. Do you allow these people to stay and work from home? Do we not? What's Our company stance on this? [There's] a lot of conversations around the things that are not regulated and how the businesses as a whole [are] going to handle this.


Michael Sayre

Sidney, I don't know if you've seen this, but one of the things I've seen is it's not just the small mom and pop companies. It's not just the 10-person or 15-person companies. There are some mid-sized companies and larger mid-size companies that still have questions about this type of stuff. I don't know if that's something that you come across this well.


Sidney Bruce

Oh yeah, absolutely. I think everybody is trying to figure out what do we do? How do we keep our employees safe? And it's been interesting for me to watch. The companies that have been first to say, "Hey, let's get everybody working from home and just nip this in the bud." And then some people that were like, "Oh, we'll wait it out and see how this goes." And now we are trying to play catch up. I see everything from, "We started to work from home at the beginning of March." To, "I'm just trying to figure out how to initiate this policy right now." It is difficult. Everybody is trying to figure this out and do the best for themselves, their families, and their employees. You don't know because we've never been through anything like this. We will see. Hopefully, we are making the right choices.


Michael Sayre

Yeah. Can you tell us some of the main highlights from FFCRA.


Sidney Bruce

Yeah, it's an expansion of FMLA, Family Medical Leave Act, that we have all been exposed to at one point or another or have heard of it. The FMLA was originally only for companies that were 50 employees or more. This expanded FFCRA essentially applies to anyone who was 500 or less, and so that is a huge change.  

A lot of companies are navigating through these waters the first time. the qualifying reasons for taking this leave are surrounding COVID19. There are six different qualifying reasons that would allow you to be eligible for the two different law acts that make up the FFCRA and I can provide links. And, we’ve got a calculator that helps you calculate what your employee eligibility looks like or your exposure from the company side.  

All of the six reasons for leave, as I said, are related to COVID19 in one way or another, whether it's a federal, state or local quarantine that's been issued. Whether a health care provider has directed that you self-quarantine. If you're caring for children or an individual that's been subject to quarantine. There are six different reasons, all of them equate to different levels of eligibility as far as what your payment is going to be when you're out on leave. Whether you're paid at 2/3 of your salary or 100% of your salary, it's all dependent upon these six reasons for leave.  

If I can tie this back to practical application. I could get on this call with you, Michael, and do exactly what I said I've been frustrated with everybody else doing which is the regurgitation of all these laws. But what we're trying to do is really be able to give people tools to apply this tomorrow. Michael, I don't know how we can make sure that all of these listeners get access to the FFCRA eligibility tool that we've created at Everee, I think it will be really beneficial because what we've created is just a place where you go in and you put your inputs for what is going to determine your eligibility. Your salary, how long you been with the company, and your qualifying reason for leave. What we've done has been able to calculate what the eligibility is going to look like for that individual. That includes the paid time off, how many weeks they'd be able to be eligible for, what their daily pay is, and what the aggregate maximum eligibility is for leave. So like I said, that's that practical application of it, which is not just regurgitating these laws. but, being able to have a tool that's going to populate eligibility and help you navigate these questions when your employees are coming in and requesting leave.


Michael Sayre

Yeah, we'll make sure to leave a link so that those who could benefit from a calculator like that can access it. Yeah, I've gone on the website and I've checked out the tool, and it's pretty simple and pretty intuitive to use.


Sidney Bruce

Yeah, thank you. It was really cool to be able to put this together. These regulations came out real quick. The fact that we were able to download all the information and put a tool together in real-time in a week, I got to give a shout out to my team at Everee.  I just don't think we could have done it without all of us being focused on getting that out and giving people the tools that they need to understand these new regulations.


Michael Sayre

Speaking about practical application, here's a question that I came across not too long ago, "What written support do we require the employees to provide for each of the Six COVID19 qualifying reasons for leave. For example, a doctor's note." Can you kind of go over that and address that a little bit?


Sidney Bruce

Absolutely.  We've actually created a form because if you're familiar with FMLA, then you know that the paperwork that's required for FMLA is very extensive. And because I think this regulation was pushed so quickly, the DOL hasn't released anything specific. They don't have documents. They just kind of provided a general outline for what you can and should request.  

We've created a request for leave form that your employees could fill out their name, the requested start date, and the date of this request, and then identify whatever their qualifying reason is. Then, as the owner of the HR manager, you would get that form back. You could select the form back in addition to the documentation that goes along with these reasons. For example, if the reason that your employees are requesting leave is due to school closure. The documentation that we would recommend you would request from that employee would be maybe a notice on the school website or a government website saying that all schools are shut down the same thing if due to a federal, state or local quarantine. Anything on one of those websites would be good or an email.  A note from your doctor that states that you have been ordered to self-quarantine. We've created that form for you that you can use.  

That's again, another practical application tool that we have. In the end, you can list out what their leave qualifications or what their eligibility is. They're estimated wage when it's starting when it's ending, the reason that they're taking it and you're approving it, and then also having that employees sign it and then you sign it so that you're good to go. We've created that, and I'd be happy to share it with anyone who's listening just so that we can again give you the practical application because that's the part that's hard.


Michael Sayre

The next question is a really tough question, and I don't know what input you can give. Everyone's in quarantine and everyone's social distancing and all of that. So, do you have any thoughts on how to keep business is strong and how to keep businesses going and be stronger when we get out of this?


Sidney Bruce

Yeah, definitely. My advice coming from the HR realm would be, used this time to really sit down and analyze your processes and trim some fat where you can. Dive into strategic resources on your human capital side of keeping the business afloat. I've seen some companies that are reducing pay, and employees are offering to take a reduced salary to keep the business afloat. Looking at your payroll provider is to see if there are ways that you can trim down extra costs on things that you're not using or that you do.


Michael Sayre

One thing that's tough right now is there's a lot of people who are crippled by fear, and they just don't know. And they just don't want to act. 


Sidney Bruce

I call that "analysis paralysis" where you're just stuck because you can't get out of the weeds of,  "What should I do?" Like Elsa says, "take the next best step."  "Do the next right thing." Take some Disney Frozen advice. Just move forward. Take advantage of all of the government subsidies that are available. So these Payroll Protection Programs, apply for that through your small business. Understand that all of these FFCRA regulations, there's going to be 100% tax credit for that. So any funds that you pay out to your employees that are out on leave, you're going to get reimbursed for that. So just hang in there, try "one step at a time. Do the next right thing" I guess. Whatever that looks like in the smallest of ways.


Michael Sayre

Yeah, right now is the time to step it up as a leader. It's time to kind of dig in and get back to what got you started in the first place.


Sidney Bruce

Apply it in a new way. You've got years of conditioning and learning and experience in being a business owner. This is just another challenge that's coming down the pipeline, and we're all in this together. Despite the size of your organization. Whether you have thousands of employees or you're a small company, everybody is feeling this. I was listening to the news this morning, and it was, I think it was AMC theaters. They're almost on the brink of bankruptcy. And there are large corporation, and it's affecting them just like it is the small electrical shops that we've got around the corner, small bakery. Everybody is feeling this. So you're not alone. I don't know if that makes it worse or better. I guess misery loves company, so I'm going to go with its better. That we're all we all have to fight through this together.


Michael Sayre

Sidney, we are going to go ahead and wrap up now. But once again, thank you so much for all your thoughts and your insights. This has been great. I think this will be helpful for a lot of businesses out there.


Sidney Bruce

Absolutely. Michael, it's been great chatting with you. Thank you so much for inviting me.


Michael Sayre

Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through Woodbury Financial Services, Inc.  Member FINRA, SIPC, and Registered Investment Advisor. Insurance offered through CUI Wealth Management.  CUI Wealth Management, LLC and Woodbury Financial Services, Inc. are not affiliated entities. Sidney Bruce and Everee are not affiliated with CUI Wealth Management or Woodbury Financial Services, Inc. CUI Wealth Management 5965 S 900 E, Suite 150, Salt Lake City, UT 84121 

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