NJDOL and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Updated Information for Employers & Businesses
The COVID-19 virus has impacted all of our daily routines, with many employers feeling especially vulnerable.
We urge you to continue to pay your workers whether or not they are able to work. Bipartisan federal legislation provided small and mid-sized businesses with 100 percent compensation for providing two weeks of federal emergency paid sick leave to employees, along with tax credits for providing up to 12 weeks of federal emergency childcare leave through FMLA. Tax breaks for paid leave were also provided to self-employed workers.
As the New Jersey economy reopens, employers will have new questions about the unemployment benefits available, and workplace health and safety and caregiving protections they must offer their employees. The questions and answers below help illustrate under which limited conditions benefits may still be available, and describe some of the laws that employers should be aware of as they bring employees back to work.
• In most cases, an individual is disqualified from collecting Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits if he or she voluntarily quits or refuses suitable work; exceptions could occur where an individual quits or refuses work because the work poses a high degree of risk to health and safety.
• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) may be available to those who cannot work or must work reduced hours due to COVID-19, including because of school and care facility closures.
• NJDOL examines cases on an individual basis, and makes eligibility determinations in accordance with the law.
The information below will be updated as our response to COVID-19 evolves, so please check back often.
Generally, individuals receiving regular unemployment compensation must act upon any referral to suitable employment and must accept any offer of suitable work. Barring unusual circumstances, a request that a furloughed employee return to his or her job very likely constitutes an offer of suitable employment that the employee must accept. See NJDOL’s guidance for more details.
If the worker was furloughed because you closed as a direct result of COVID-19, they would potentially be eligible for unemployment benefits while you remained closed. However, as soon as your business reopens and you recall the employee to work, eligibility for PUA would cease unless the employee can identify some other qualifying circumstance to receive PUA, as outlined in the CARES Act.
If the employee is experiencing one of the qualifying COVID-19 reasons and refuses to return to work, then they may be eligible for PUA and can continue to certify weekly.
See USDOL FAQ : https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus/unemployment-insurance.
While in most cases a claimant cannot refuse “suitable work” and collect benefits, where the work poses a high degree of risk to health and safety to the claimant, he or she can refuse to accept the “unsuitable work” and continue to collect benefits. These determinations are highly fact-specific and are determined on a case-by-case basis. See NJDOL’s guidance on refusing an offer of suitable work for health and safety concerns.
An individual with these concerns may be eligible for PUA if “the individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19.” (See Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 16-20) According to federal guidance documents, this would apply to an individual who has been advised by a qualified medical professional that he or she may be infected with the coronavirus and that he or she therefore should self-quarantine. For example, if the individual had direct contact with another person who has tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19, and is advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine to prevent further possible spread of the virus.
In addition, this would apply to “high-risk” individuals with underlying health concerns. Such individuals could receive PUA if they were advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine “in order to avoid the greater-than-average risks that the individual might face if he or she were to become infected by the coronavirus.” This can include, but is not limited to, an individual with an “immune system [that] is compromised by virtue of a serious health condition.” (See Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 16-20).
If your employee is experiencing one of the qualifying COVID-19 reasons, and refuses to return to work, then they may be eligible for PUA and can continue to certify weekly.
It depends on what type of employer you are. Under federal OSHA law, employers must protect workers from workplace hazards that can cause illness or injury, provide required personal protective equipment (PPE), and ensure its use. It’s also against NJ Wage and Hour law for an employer to deduct the cost of protective equipment from a worker’s pay.
If you employ essential workers, as defined in Executive Order Number 122, you are required to provide your employees with a cloth face covering and gloves, hand washing breaks, sanitization materials, and more. It is unlawful to charge your employees for required personal protective equipment.
If you are an agricultural employer, we urge you to review this joint guidance.
We encourage employers to read NJDOL’s guidance on suitable work and health and safety concerns.
Employers have valid concerns about their insurance ratings. We will be taking steps to ease the charging of employers directly impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. Those numbers are calculated at the end of March every year and we will address that process in 2021.
With the unprecedented number of claims that have been filed, the notification to employers is lagging behind the actual payment of benefits. You can still file an appeal of the claim.
Regardless of the separating employer, Unemployment Insurance looks at the earnings from all employers normally during the first four of the most recently completed five calendar quarters to determine the employee’s monetary benefits. Each of the employers will be charged their pro rata share of the benefits based on their percentage of earnings.
Under the CARES Act there is Emergency unemployment relief for governmental entities and non-profit organizations (Section 2103). New Jersey is authorized to provide maximum flexibility to reimbursing employers as it relates to timely payments in lieu of contributions and assessment of penalties and interest. This section of the CARES Act also provides for transfers to a state’s account in the unemployment trust fund from the Federal Unemployment Account to provide partial reimbursements (generally 50 percent of the amount of payments in lieu of contributions) to state and local governmental entities, certain nonprofit organizations, and federally recognized Indian tribes for weeks of unemployment between March 13, 2020 and December 31, 2020. These partial reimbursements apply to all payments made during this time period, even if the unemployed individual is not unemployed as a result of COVID-19.
We suggest carefully reviewing CDC interim guidance for businesses which may help prevent workplace exposures to acute respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, in non-healthcare settings. The guidance also provides planning considerations if there are more widespread, community outbreaks of COVID-19.
Any person or group planning a trip abroad should consult the CDC website for current travel advisories regarding any travel restrictions. The situation is evolving, so travelers should stay up to date with CDC’s travel health notices related to this outbreak. These notices will be updated as more information becomes available.
CDC has issued travel advisories for several countries. Please refer to the CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel for the latest travel advisories.
Travelers returning from the countries known to be affect should follow recommendations provided by the CDC for Travelers Returning from High Risk Countries.
Per the CDC, employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available). This is the recommendation whether the employee might have COVID-19 or any of the much more common respiratory viruses.
Click here for the latest recommendations from the CDC for cleaning and sanitizing businesses and public spaces.
The CDC has also provided recommendations for the cleaning and disinfection of community facilities (schools, daycares centers, businesses) with suspected/confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Yes. Employees would need to certify in their weekly unemployment benefit certification which weeks they are working and which weeks they are not. Their unemployment claim may require agent intervention.
The Shared Work Program, also sometimes referred to as workshare or Short-Term Compensation, is an alternative to layoffs. An employer who has at least 10 employees may apply to NJDOL for approval to provide a Shared Work program. The purpose of such a program is to stabilize an employer’s workforce during a period of economic disruption by permitting the sharing of the work remaining after a reduction in total hours of work. Under an approved Shared Work program, workers who have their hours of work reduced may receive “short-term” Unemployment benefits for the lost hours of work, while continuing to work at reduced hours with a continuation of their health insurance, pension coverage, and other benefits. Get more information here. We will soon have a secure online application available, and we have added additional staff so it should not take more than a few weeks, once the application is received, for the review and approval process.
Yes, the Department of Labor has many opportunities for job training. Visit nj.gov/labor for information on how to access training funds for on-the-job training. NJDOL is also looking ahead to provide online virtual training programs. If there's an employer who has an immediate need, we can assist specific to the training need.
Before reaching out directly to the State, we recommend that you review the answers on this site. Reading this information is likely to be the most efficient way for you to get answers and support.
If you have additional business-related coronavirus questions, you are welcome to call the New Jersey Business Action Center (8am–5pm ET) at 1-800-JERSEY-7 or visit business.nj.gov.
If you have a non-business coronavirus inquiry, please call the NJ Coronavirus & Poison Center Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or visit nj.gov/health.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has a portfolio of loan, financing, and technical assistance programs available to support small and medium-sized businesses. More information on existing products and programs can be found on the NJEDA website for small and midsize business and the services for those businesses.
Speaking with an NJEDA team member may be helpful in understanding what resources may be available to address your business needs. To reach an NJEDA team member, please call 609-858-6767 or share information about your business at contactus.njeda.com and a representative will contact you promptly.
The State recognizes that the coronavirus outbreak is causing difficulty for many members of our business community. Several State agencies are currently engaging with local business leaders, local financial institutions, and business advocacy groups to better understand what supports would be most impactful to ensure business and employment continuity.
Please check this site regularly, as we anticipate an update in the near future.
The NJEDA understands that the coronavirus outbreak is causing disruptions for some businesses that have been approved for State economic development support, including loans, grants, and tax credits. Businesses are encouraged to appropriately respond to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers.
In light of the declared New Jersey state of emergency, NJEDA is currently reviewing procedures and policies related to all NJEDA support programs.
As a first step, the NJEDA is waiving certain specific requirements related to employee presence in the office for the recipients of awards under the following employment-based incentive programs:
- Grow New Jersey Program (“Grow NJ”)
- Urban Transit Hub Program (“HUB”)
- Business Employment Incentive Program (“BEIP”)
- Business Retention and Relocation Assistance Grant Program (“BRRAG”)
For more information about this program waiver, read the press release.
Please continue to check this website in the coming days for additional program specific guidance.
In addition, if you would like to speak with a representative about your specific situation, please call your assigned Incentives Officer or 609-858-6767; or provide your information at contactus.njeda.com and a member of the NJEDA will contact you promptly.
The federal government’s $8.3 billion Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, is predominantly focused on direct support for outbreak response (i.e., funding for hospitals, testing, vaccines, etc.), but did include provisions that allows the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) to administer disaster-related loans.
Per his address on March 11, 2020, President Trump has authorized the SBA to offer an additional $50 billion in SBA loans at low-interest rates to help small businesses overcome temporary economic setbacks caused by the spread of the Coronavirus. The Small Business Administration's coronavirus website has the most up to date information available on current loan packages and program information.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority and other State Officials will be in contact with our Federal partners and will update this site with additional information as it is received.
Governor Phil Murphy declared that New Jersey has entered a state of emergency, effective March 9, 2020. Executive Order No. 103 declares a state of emergency across all 21 counties in the State. New Jersey’s law against price gouging is now in effect. This law prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency, or for 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency.
Excessive price increases are defined as price increases that are more than 10 percent higher than the price at which merchandise was sold during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency. See New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act for more information.
The Division of Consumer Affairs has set up a hotline for price gouging complaints related to coronavirus. Please call 973-504-6240 to report any price gouging concerns.