As state after state closes all but essential businesses, many companies are laying off and furloughing employees. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin warns that unless the government acts appropriately, the country could end up with 20 percent unemployment.

If you lay off (or furlough) your employees, they are eligible for unemployment. Unfortunately, in some states, the weekly payments--ranging from $235 in Mississippi up to $1,495 in Illinois--may be barely enough to buy groceries.

As an employer, you can't directly increase the amount of income a former or furloughed employee receives when they apply for unemployment benefits. But here's what you can do:

​Never oppose unemployment 

Don't try to save your own wallet by further impacting the financial well-being of your employees.

Offer severance pay when possible

These are trying financial times for employers and employees alike, but if you can afford severance payments, your employees obviously need the money.

Extend health benefits 

This crisis comes from an infectious disease. Some of your employees who lose their jobs may become ill or even be hospitalized. If you could cover their Cobra costs, the temporary health insurance to bridge the gap while unemployed, you'll save lives.

Rehire as soon as possible 

Your doors are closed through no fault of your own. But when they open again, make job offers to your former staff as soon as possible. They will be your best choice moving forward--no training needed.

Lobby your state legislature 

Unemployment is decided on a state level. While the federal government could set laws, right now it's up to the states. Your state legislatures should be anxious to help--this is a good thing to bring up. They are focusing on health and safety right now, but financial concerns will arise. An increase in unemployment payments could help recovery.

Deciding to terminate an employee for financial reasons is heartbreaking, but do so with all the facts in front of you. Unemployment payments aren't a replacement for salaries.

Published on: Mar 25, 2020
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