Guidance and resources for employers and business owners.
On May 29, Gov. Jay Inslee released an updated, county-by-county based “Safe Start” reopening plan for resuming recreational, social and business activities.
Businesses are not authorized to open until they are able to meet all safety criteria. As counties and industries reopen under the “Safe Start” plan, business and worker guidance will be posted to the Governor’s website.
New Facial Covering Guidance
Beginning June 8, all employees will be required to wear a cloth facial covering, except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction.
Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection. Employees may choose to wear their own facial covering at work, provided it meets the minimum requirements.
Businesses must also post signage strongly encouraging customers and clients to wear cloth face coverings.
Safe Start Workplace Safety Requirements for All Employers
The Safe Start plan identifies 11 workplace safety requirements for all employers. The requirements generally encompass facial coverings, personal protective equipment, physical distancing, hand sanitation, surface sanitation, employee education, policy for ill employees, and legal compliance.
Industry-Specific Safe Start Guidance
The Safe Start program will reopen the state on a county-by-county, industry-by industry basis. Businesses should monitor the following resources for guidance applicable to their location and industry.
General Workplace Safety
State law requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace, and it protects workers from retaliation. These basic obligations remain in effect during this pandemic.
Workers affected by the pandemic may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Regular unemployment benefits are available for workers experiencing layoffs or reduced hours through no fault of their own. Expanded unemployment options may cover many workers ineligible for regular unemployment.
SharedWork may be a suitable option. Businesses that can reduce work hours by 10-50%, instead of laying off an employee, keep that worker employed while remaining eligible for shared work and CARES Act benefits.
Paid Sick Leave
Workers may use accrued paid sick leave if their employer is shut down due to a health-related reason, including COVID-19.
Additionally, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide workers with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
Paid Family and Medical Leave is available to workers that require time off to care for themselves or a family member due to a qualifying event, such as a serious health condition or a new baby. This benefit also applies to military deployments and returns from deployment.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act mobilized a number of programs to support the American economy.
Provisions included paycheck protection for workers, small business debt relief, economic injury disaster loans, small business counseling and contracting, and tax provisions.
Paycheck Protection Program
The Paycheck Protection Program is a forgivable loan issued by the U.S. Small Business Administration to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic.
Federal Economic Impact Payments
Many American families received federal stimulus checks, a provision of the CARES Act.
Small Business Programming
Taxes and Fees
Some employers forced to lay off employees due to the pandemic have expressed concern about experience ratings. See this ESD FAQ to learn about their policy.
A recent emergency rule has appointed the Department of Labor and Industries as an enforcement arm of the Safe Start plan. L&I may cite and fine business that operate in violation of the law.
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner has information about insurance coverage businesses need to protect themselves from potential losses.
Guidance from OIC for businesses about keeping employees on their health insurance plans.
For information employers can share with employees about the health insurance options available through Washington Health plan finder (includes free and low-cost options for those who will or have lost employer-sponsored coverage), please visit the Washington Health Benefit Exchange Coronavirus FAQ Page.
Department of Labor and Industries (L&I)
L&I is for workplace safety and rights for workers. They will also serve as an enforcement arm of Safe Start restrictions.
Employment Security Department (ESD)
ESD is offering relief to affected workers and information to businesses statewide that may help them employ and retain their workers.
Department of Health (DOH)
DOH is a primary source for data on the coronavirus and guidance to slow the spread.
Department of Commerce (DOC)
Commerce is responding to the crisis by arranging funding, grants, loans, and resources for Washington businesses.
The state Emergency Management Division has activated the Public Assistance (PA) Program. This is specifically for state and local governments, tribal governments and to certain non-profits seeking federal assistance.
The state’s Office of Financial Management can help governments manage various workplace issues related to COVID-19.
The Department of Enterprise Services offers services for state agencies and municipal governments including facilities and lease management, accounting, human resources, risk management, contracting and printing.
The Department of Commerce has compiled a list of federal and state funding available to local governments.