What Are My Options If My Staff Want To Stay On Unemployment And Not Come Back To Work?

What Are My Options If My Staff Want To Stay On Unemployment And Not Come Back To Work?

In all my Facebook groups, the same question has been popping up. It goes like this, “I am thinking of re-opening and my staff doesn’t want to come back because they are making more on unemployment than if they were working for me?”

When the CARES Act passed, part of it includes a $600-a-week bonus from the Federal government until July 31 for those registered as unemployed. This is on top of what the state was paying for unemployment. For many, that means they are making a minimum of $2400 a month from the Federal government plus whatever their state is giving them.

This is a tough subject that is leaving a lot of business owners feeling like they are held hostage in their own business while hemorrhaging money each day, week, and month. They want to get their businesses back open but are slowing realizing that it isn’t going to just all POOF be back to normal overnight.

Business Owners Are Fearful

Business owners in my groups are fearful. The are scared to ask their workers back, they are scared of what they will say when they are asked back, and they are scared to try to hire all new staff during this turbulent time.

Business owners are being put in tough positions they never thought they would be in and honestly there is no right or wrong answers.

Use My Relationships

Relationships with CPAs, Human Resources, and Labor Attornies have never been so important than ever before and they all have different points of views on what you should do.

Many of my clients, (Jumpers) are asking the advice of all three experts and then using their thoughts to make their best educated decision. As you will read from Marilyn, we are playing a game where at the time of publication, we still don’t have all the rules of the game.

It is tough.

So I have gathered the experts that I know, like, and trust and asked them all the same question:

My business has received the Payment Protection Program (PPP). My staff says ‘no’ to coming back becasue they are making more on unemployment… Now what?


Before reading on please note that my guest contributors or I are not giving you any legal or financial advice and you need to consult with your team, in your state, about your situation. 

The CPA Answer:

bella in your business

Marilyn is a CPA and a Certified Profit First Professional and the co-Founder of ProfitHERO™, the #1 online financial community that puts you in the know about what you don’t know and on a success path to profit so you can go from startup to scale-ready without delaying pay, play, or profit. You might have remembered them from our two hour Facebook Live going through the CARES Acts and PPP. Here is what she had to say about this situation:

The Paycheck Protection Program was intended to essentially protect the paychecks for those employees who were at risk of losing their ability to earn. Employers raced to file for this program with the goal of getting funded first and sort the plan out second. There was really no time to think, only do when the legislation was enacted on March 27th. However, no one anticipated how the proverbial “stack” of small business aid would actually end up competing with an invisible employer named Pandemic Unemployment that would silently end up positioning those who were hired with the prospect of 16 weeks PTO and a substantial raise.

How Do We Do Business In An Alternative Universe?

This new COVID reality has literally created an alternate universe overnight for small businesses who are now desperate to hire back their team members so that life beyond COVID can happen. The greatest challenge has been managing the emotions of owners who feel a sense of betrayal when they learn their staff would rather risk their future for short-term unemployment along with the guilt that somehow their wanting to resume business is keeping the teams they love from an opportunity. So what do we do and where do we go from here?


The short answer that confronts the brutal facts is that life and business must go on. It’s the whole — “it’s gonna be different, but it’s gonna be ok.” You may want to tell your team member to “take their time” and come back when the pandemic unemployment ends but we just can’t accept that this was the spirit of the economic aid when it was drafted. The whole point was to keep everyone as whole as humanly possible so that we had something to return to and build once the initial onset of this crisis was over. As hard as it may be, the reality is you call the team members you truly want back and then the next decision is theirs. As a small business owner, this is your responsibility to do your part and operate accordingly, no matter how hard or difficult it may be. We can each only control what we each individually do. Now is the time to let the law guide you on how to walk this transition back into normal out while being as compassionate as you can within those boundaries.

Practically speaking there are some ways you can essentially “compete” with unemployment. Your willingness to innovate to create a win-win will be key into making all the pieces of this puzzle fit. For example…..


  1.  You could honor your employees with a temporary pay increase for the eight-week period. Documentation and equal treatment across the board will be key here. The SBA cites a max payout of $15,384 for the 8-week period to anyone person given the $100k salary cap.
  2.  You could consider a one-time return to work bonus or offer a commitment incentive to be paid out at the end of the eight weeks. Again, max payouts, no discrimination, and confirm with your lender that these types of adjustments would be part of your due diligence.
  3. You must meet the 75% payroll allocation in order to take advantage of the 25% rent, utilities, and mortgage interest payments but learning, if these expenses could be pre-paid, could be part of your PPP spend down strategy.
  4. You could transition your monthly, bi-weekly, or bi-monthly pay cycles to weekly so that the full eight weeks are certain to be within the timeline. Unemployment pays weekly and so can you. Again, just an idea to consider with your lender. There’s certainly nothing within the rulings that we’ve seen to counter this as a way to maximize the use of your PPP funding.

UPDATE: File ruling on PPP was just announced here

These Are Only Strategies

Marily stresses to me though that:  Again, Bella — these are strategies or ideas but people need to execute on them with their eyes WIDE OPEN. This very important and no one should be trying to navigate a strategy on their own. Collaboration is a small business owner’s best friend right now — which is exactly what you do inside your program and we do inside ours!

Gosh, I just love how knowledgable and candid this team always is with me and my community. I really do hope that you take advantage of at least one of their offers:

1. Access to a $197.00 Masterclass for FREE
2.  71% off the Profit Hero’s community just because you are in my crew. Use promo code bella350


Then We Asked A Lawyer…

Okay next up, we had to ask Bernard Nomberg. He is an attorney in Alabama, super knowledgable, presented in the COVID support group at the end of March, …and he has a pretty solid Tik Tok game with his daughters! 🙂 Here is his reflections on this situation:

As businesses contemplate reopening their doors, there is the potential that employees will be unwilling to return to the jobs they held prior to stay at home orders. Whether furloughed or terminated from employment, over 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment during COVID-19. 

As new ordinances are announced and individual states choose to phase their population back into some semblance of an open public, some employees will be unwilling to pick back up their jobs and continue with business as usual.

Even if an employee’s reasoning is grounded in a true hesitation of being exposed to pathogens, it cannot be denied that some of those 26 million Americans drawing unemployment benefits are receiving pay that is greater than the compensation received while employed.

Unemployment Has An Expiration Date:

However, it is imperative that these employees remember that unemployment benefits have an expiration date. 

“For example, states such as New York, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Ohio each offer 26 weeks of unemployment benefits through the traditional state-funded unemployment insurance system. Seven states provide less than 26 weeks of unemployment compensation. For example, Florida and North Carolina each offer 12 weeks, while Missouri provides 13 weeks of unemployment benefits.” Even unemployment during COVID-19 doesn’t last forever, as the benefits have only been extended an additional 13 weeks. With these expiration dates in mind, employees should heed the fact that these benefits will terminate if they are offered their job back, and that job is refused. Several states including Iowa have issued statements that center on a similar notion: “If you’re an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that’s a voluntary quit, [t]herefore, they would not be eligible for the unemployment money.” While an employer may be hesitant to use this information as a tactic to incentivize workers to return to employment, it is a fact that cannot be denied.

Source: https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/495050-states-telling-workers-theyll-lose-unemployment-benefits-if-they-refuse.
Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2020/04/29/unemployment-benefits-extended/#5ba90f792a51.

Bernard continues to say, “If you are hurt on the job due to unsafe working conditions, seek legal counsel, as you may be entitled to workers’ compensation or other benefits. As we have since 1967, we will continue to protect the legal rights of our clients – those who are hurt on the job while working for Alabama employers. If you have been injured on the job and want to learn your rights, please consider contacting the Nomberg Law Firm. Our website is Nomberglaw.com. We are based in Birmingham, AL. Our office number is 205-930-6900.”


We Also Asked a Human Resources Expert

Niki Ramirez is an amazing friend of the Jump Consulting community. She has shown up for our Mastermind members every month joined us in the COVID support group and helped dozens of my clients. Her knowledge is invaluable and I’m so thankful for her advice whenever we call on her. Here are her thoughts:

This is an all-too-common question right now. It is wonderful to have received this hard-to-come-by loan, but we are finding that employees may not be ready to return to work. As a leader in your business, and in your community, I simply want to remind you that operating from a place of respect and compassion will always take you farther than operating and making decisions based on fear. Do not fear that employees who do not wish to return to work will have a negative impact on your organization!

Consider The Position The Employee Might Be In

Based on each employee’s family needs and personal beliefs, employees may not be ready to return to work. Some employees will be dealing with childcare issues, some employees will simply not feel safe returning to work yet. Some employees may feel that they can receive higher weekly pay by remaining on unemployment (if they are currently receiving unemployment benefits). Just this week, in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey published a statement that he is instructing state agencies to be “flexible” in granting continued unemployment benefits to individuals who fear for their health and safety in returning to work. This means that even if you call employees back to work, they may be able to decline and continue to receive unemployment benefits; which would normally disqualify them. Time can only tell how this will all play out in Arizona and in other states.


Key Considerations:

Moving on, let’s review some of the key considerations when you approach rehiring employees, or reopening for business. Do keep in mind that there are various ways that you can approach using your PPP funds in a way that will still be forgivable; your CPA or trusted financial advisor is best suited to break down the loan terms with you. Below are my keys for planning for success using your PPP loan funds, even when your employees do not wish to return to work:

  1. When analyzing what portion of your PPP loan will be forgivable, you will be measuring the number of full time employees (FTE’s) in your company, as well as the amounts paid in payroll during your selected measurement period. You do not have to employ the same people; you can hire new employees if need to maintain your FTE.
  2. Payroll can be spent on training and retraining employees if you do not yet have enough work to send them into the field with clients yet.
  3. You can pay employees their “regular salary” even if they are not yet physically working during your 8-week period.

When you’re ready to communicate with employees about returning to work:

  • Craft a standard re-employment process and follow it consistently
  • Provide those that you wish to invite to return with a carefully-crafted written offer that includes:
    • Date of reinstatement or return to full-time status/pay
    • Job title
    • Rate of pay or weekly salary
    • Location of work
    • Main job duties
    • Supervisor
    • Deadline to respond in writing
    • Instructions to respond in writing (return the letter with Yes/No designation, text or email a response)
  • Engage in phone or video conversations with employees to determine their level of interest and comfort returning to work. If they tell you that they are concerned about safety, you can review with them the safety protocols that you’re implementing to keep employees, clients and the community safe.
  • Keep documentation of your employees’ responses to your offer. Plan to use this information if you need to reply to requests from your local unemployment office in determining your employees’ future eligibility for unemployment benefits.
  • It is ok to respectfully remind employees to consider that unemployment benefits are not guaranteed long term, and that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (the extra $600 weekly payment) is scheduled to expire on July 31, 2020.
  • Once you know which of your employees are ready to return to work, you can decide whether or not you need to advertise and recruit for new employees.
  • If you need to recruit and hire new employees in order to ensure you meet PPP loan forgiveness requirements, ensure that you craft a compelling job posting that ensures that candidates are attracted to your company based on the value you place on safety and health; as well as your care and concern for employees.
  • Recruiting, hiring and training may look different in the future based on social distancing guidelines. Please consider reviewing your safety and health protocols so that when you meet with candidates you limit the risk of exposure.
    • Some ideas for doing this: conduct video-based interviews rather than in-person interview; only meet top candidates in open, well-ventilated spaces; wear masks to curb the spread of illness when meeting with job candidates and new employees; use electronic recruiting and onboarding systems (like JazzHR), and online payroll systems (like Gusto payroll) to streamline your hiring process and decrease the need to share physical paperwork.

So What Will You Do With This Information?

I know this article has given you a lot to think about and often we get different things to ponder from different experts. I hope this article and Marilyn, Bernard, and Niki’s contributions have shown you just how important it is for you to have your own group of advisors strategizing inside your own business.

If you are in the Mastermind, you gain get access to Niki every single month as a perk of your membership. We actually have a whole spreadsheet of all the questions she has answered for our group. Curious what they are? Here is a snipit:

  • What about pregnant ladies and scooping litter? What accommodations can you make?
  • Are we required to be keeping notes on what was the reason we decided not to hire someone after we’ve engaged in the first step? (i.e. not just rejecting an application but interview or whatever our first step of reaching out is)
  • How does drug testing work for people who have valid prescriptions for controlled substances (i.e., stimulants for ADHD, benzos for anxiety, opiates for pain, etc– I’m going to break marijuana off into its own bullet)? my understanding is that the results are unreportable in these cases due to HIPPA?
  • What to say to an employee who says she is uncomfortable doing consultations when there is only a man in the house.
  • Is there a certain amount of hours we have to schedule someone? I have 2 people who will not turn in their availability so I have not scheduled either one. How long until they are not considered an employee?
  • What are the legalities on requiring someone to work a holiday?
  • If I conduct an interview at a dog park and something happens to the candidate am I liable?
  • How much can you have someone interview or job shadow before you start paying them?
  • How do I handle compensation for employees for handling communication outside of hours?
  • Can an employee have two positions with two different pay rates? For instance, a pet sitter and an office employee role. And can you have different pay rates for overnights and visit/walking rates?

These are all actual questions that have been asked and answered and in a spreadsheet with a link to the time-stamped answer from Niki. This is only about 10% of the questions we have in there. We also have LIz Illg, the systems a communications expert who does a training every month, monthly themes, accountability partners, World class speakers, and so much more. Check out the Mastermind if you have goals that you want to hit out of the park!

Join Jump Mastermind


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