There is no playbook for what America is experiencing.

Managers, leaders and business owners are going through the same thing — trying to salvage their businesses while maintaining some semblance of hope for employees.

Now that the shock has worn off a bit from this surreal experience, employers should consider doing some things to send a message to employees.

The most important thing you can do is to be honest with employees about what is going on, where the business stands and what you expect and anticipate for them.

If you’ve applied for the federal Paycheck Protection Program through the U.S. Small Business Administration, tell your employees you are finding a way to keep them employed for two months (or however long you anticipate) and that you will have to reassess after that.

Keeping employees on payroll is the best option, of course, because they will keep their benefits and some sense of continuity.

While the SBA program has been slow and cash flow is an issue for many small businesses, if you can use this program it will provide employees the most sense of security.

If you know that you only have so many more weeks to keep employees on the payroll because you simply don’t have the cash flow or the business likely will not survive this, let employees know about their options for unemployment.

Even furloughed employees are eligible for unemployment.

Gov. Ralph Northam fortunately has removed the one-week waiting period before receiving benefits. The federal government is providing an additional $600 a week in benefits on top of the typical $378 a week, so employees may be eligible for up to $978 a week in jobless benefits for up to four months.

Employees can apply at .

If employees are sick due to the coronavirus and you employ fewer than 500 employees, the employee may be eligible for up to two weeks of paid leave. If an employee is needed to care for someone due to the virus, that person may be eligible for up to two weeks paid leave at a reduced rate, according to a new federal law.

Employees who cannot telework also may be eligible for a reduced paid leave for an additional 10 weeks to care for children.

Employers should go to the Department of Labor’s website — — for information and guidelines about the new laws and to for information from the Internal Revenue Service about the tax credits that will help employers pay for the paid time off.

If it is necessary for workforce reductions during this time to stay afloat, make sure you are handling layoffs in a legitimate and non-discriminatory manner.

In the alternative, consider a shared sacrifice approach by reducing hours for hourly staff or reducing hourly pay rates or salaries across the board.

This hurts everyone — but it’s better than losing the job entirely. Just make sure to not go below the salary basis or minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act and your state’s labor laws.

There are other ways to provide some semblance of normalcy. For instance, plan a staff luncheon at a local restaurant for July 15. There is a chance it will get postponed, but the gathering gives them a specific date where their world might be back to some “normal.”

You also can organize virtual training of managers for routine developmental opportunities.

Be sincere in checking in on your employees. Everyone is stressed about family, work, life, health and uncertainty.

Showing you care about them and their whole life will make things even better in the workplace when this storm is over.

Karen Michael is an attorney with Richmond-based KarenMichael PLC. She can be reached at kmichael@karenmichaelconsulting.com.

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