The downtime afforded by the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic offers a great opportunity for employees to conduct annual training. Let’s be honest, there’s a fair amount of time on our hands right now which presents the opportunity to complete not just annual training, but really ALL training, including professional certifications, continuing education, harassment training, etc.
So, can employers ask their employees to conduct this training while at home during COVID-19? Yes, but many employers are left asking themselves two important questions:
(1) Am I required to pay an employee for time spent training? And,
(2) If so, how much?
Before we get to figuring out the compensation, however, let’s first talk about developing an employee training policy. Don’t worry, if you don’t already have a policy in place HR for Health can help you craft one based on the needs of your company. So, what constitutes training and what should be in the policy?
Employee Training Policy
Employee training can be defined as any one of the following:
- Formal training sessions
- Employee coaching and/or mentoring
- Conferences, Zoom meetings, etc.
- On-the-job training
- Job shadowing
- Professional certifications
- Annual required training (such as harassment training)
- Continuing education
- Voluntary training
In addition to outlining what is considered employee training, your workplace policy should also provide a description of each of type of employee training. Some other things you’ll want to consider is who this policy will apply to - for instance, independent contractors may not necessarily be included in the scope of this policy. Is there a procedure in place for when employees want to attend external training or conferences? Those are some additional questions you’ll want to consider when crafting your policy.
If you have a policy for paying employees at a reduced rate for time spent in training and meetings, it is advisable that this policy be clearly stated and that the hours spent earning this reduced rate are clearly recorded as such.
Employee Training Reimbursement
Generally speaking, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that employees be compensated for all training time, unless ALL four of the following standards are met:
- The training is voluntary.
- The training takes place outside of normal work hours.
- The training is not directly related to the performance of the employee’s job.
- No productive work is performed during the training.
Unless all four of these are met, you must compensate your employee for those hours worked. In addition, you would need to compensate your employee for overtime if the time spent in training leads to the employee working more than 40 hours that week. Some states also have daily overtime, so you will want to be mindful of that if you are in one of these states. The same four rules above also apply to meetings, even virtual meetings such as Zoom - meaning that if the meeting is related to the job or is involuntary, your employee will need to be paid for that time.
You are able to pay your employee a reduced rate for training time, but you cannot go below the federal (and state, if applicable) minimum wage rate. This information should be included in your policy.
In addition, you should also note that if the employee is entitled to overtime pay as a result of time spent in training/meetings, the overtime rate cannot be calculated using only the reduced “meeting and training” rate of pay. Instead, you must use either the employee’s higher rate of pay or a “blended” rate of pay for calculating the overtime rate. While blended overtime rate calculations can sometimes be quite intricate, the general rule is that an employee must be paid a rate of not less than 1.5 times the weighted average of all non-overtime rates which were used during that workweek. For assistance with this calculation, contact your employment law attorney or HR professional.
If you are a current HR for Health client and have additional questions, please reach out to our team by calling 877-779-4747. Please keep in mind that due to an influx in questions related to the COVID-19 outbreak, our response time may be slower than usual, but we will get back to you as soon as we can!
If you are not a current HR for Health client and have additional questions, please schedule an HR consultation with us by booking time here or calling us at 877-779-4747, option 1.
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HR for Health is one of the nation’s leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices. HR for Health has provided the following complimentary articles to ensure you have a game plan when addressing complex HR matters.
Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services