“Everything’s happened so quickly and the rules are so unclear and muddled that it’s a challenge for a small business trying to function with all the requirements,” Carpenter said.
Associated Employers is a membership-based organization that provides support for businesses, and during the nonprofit’s last fiscal year from July 2019 to June 2020, about 48% of calls from the hotline were related to COVID-19, according to Bryan Peterson, vice president of human resource services with Associated Employers.
The association sends out information about law changes and other requirements to members, but it serves only a small fraction of businesses in Montana. Some businesses are finding out about requirements because they’re just now dealing with a specific issue. Some are focusing on surviving and haven’t learned about changes to laws and regulations, Peterson said.
“A lot of business owners are just busy,” Peterson said. “There are so many smaller businesses in Montana with probably 20 employees or less, and those employers are in the day-to-day.”
The act provides employees two weeks, or up to 80 hours, of paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19, and provides up to 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave. These reasons can pay an employee who has been advised to quarantine or who has symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis. It also applies to employees who are caring for someone who is quarantined or caring for a child whose school or child care facility is unavailable due to COVID-19. Employees experiencing “any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services” are also included, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.