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Elgin business lawyer for COVID-19 vaccine policiesOver the past year, many businesses have made accommodations in their workplaces to ensure that employees are safe from becoming infected with COVID-19. Due to the increased availability of vaccines, many people who have been working from home are beginning to return to work in person, and employers are taking steps to ensure that their workplaces are safe for employees. However, many employers are uncertain about their requirements related to COVID-19 vaccines for employees, so they should be sure to understand how the authorities in Illinois are addressing these issues.

Can Employers Require Employees to Be Vaccinated?

Currently, the State of Illinois is leaving decisions about COVID-19 vaccinations for employees up to the discretion of employers. An employer may require employees to be vaccinated, or they may allow employees to choose whether or not to receive the vaccine. However, if an employer requires employees to be vaccinated, they must compensate employees for the time spent obtaining the vaccine. Typically, an employer will provide paid leave while employees receive their first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

If an employer does not require employees to become vaccinated, and employees voluntarily choose to receive the vaccine, the employer should allow employees to use sick time or other paid time off to obtain the first and second doses of the vaccine. Employees should also be allowed to use sick leave to help children or other family members obtain vaccinations. Additionally, employers are permitted to ask for proof of vaccination from employees to verify that they have been vaccinated.

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Elgin, IL small business attorney for PPP loansThe COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the U.S. economy. In many cases, small businesses have been hit the hardest. Many businesses have been forced to close, scale back their operations, or come up with new ways of completing essential business activities. This has in turn caused difficulties for people who have been laid off or forced to reduce the hours they can work and the amount they are able to earn. To address these ongoing problems, the federal government has passed economic stimulus and relief programs meant to help businesses continue operating and paying their employees. A law that was implemented at the end of 2020 may provide businesses with more opportunities to receive relief through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Relief for Businesses Through PPP Loans

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed in March of 2020, created the Paycheck Protection Program. Under this program, businesses that had been affected by the pandemic could obtain low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), and these loans were forgivable, as long as a certain percentage of the balance was used to pay employee wages and other payroll costs.

Initially, applications for PPP loans had to be submitted by June 30, 2020. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (CRRSAA), which was passed on December 27, 2020, reopened the Paycheck Protection Program, making it available to businesses that had already received a PPP loan, while also allowing other types of businesses to receive loans for the first time, including sole proprietors, independent contractors, and people who are self-employed. 

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Kane County business law attorneysThe COVID-19 crisis has placed many businesses and their employees in difficult financial situations. Some businesses have had to close or limit their hours of operation, and many employees have been laid off or had their work hours reduced. While some government relief programs have provided aid to those who have been affected by these issues, many people are continuing to experience financial difficulties. A recent executive order may provide some help in this area by allowing employers to defer some of the taxes withheld from employees’ pay.

Social Security Tax Deferral

In August of 2020, President Trump issued an executive order that allows for the deferral of the 6.2% tax employees pay toward Social Security. This deferral will be allowed for wages earned between September 1 and December 31, 2020. To qualify for deferral, an employee must earn less than $4,000 in pre-tax income in a bi-weekly pay period.

While these payroll taxes may be deferred, this order does not provide for the forgiveness of any taxes owed. Deferred taxes will be collected between January 1 and April 30, 2021. During the deferral period, employees will receive a temporary boost in their take-home pay, but they will then see reduced paychecks in 2021 due to the deferred taxes being withheld from their pay along with all other applicable taxes.

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Kane County family law attorneysConcerns about discrimination and harassment affect many employers and employees, and in response to these issues, the state of Illinois has passed the Workplace Transparency Act (WTA). This law went into effect on January 1, 2020, and in addition to addressing employment contracts and non-disclosure agreements, it has placed new requirements on employers regarding sexual harassment training that must be provided to employees. Business owners should be sure to understand these requirements and make sure they take the right steps to maintain compliance with the WTA.

When Will a Business Be Required to Provide Sexual Harassment Training?

The Workplace Transparency Act requires all employers with at least one employee to provide sexual harassment training to all staff members. This training must be completed by December 31, 2020, and it must also be provided on an annual basis to all employees. 

The training requirements apply to all employees who will be working in Illinois, including part-time workers, temporary or seasonal employees, and interns. While training is not required for independent contractors, the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) encourages employers to provide training for anyone who will be working at an employer’s office or interacting with their employees.

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Kane County business law attorney for PPP loan forgivenessIn response to the financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on many businesses, the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March of 2020. One of the key provisions of this act was the ability for businesses to apply for forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). However, the restrictions and requirements for these loans had caused some difficulties for small business owners, and in response, Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, and it was signed into law by President Trump on June 5. This act implemented a number of changes that will give businesses more options for using loan funds, obtaining forgiveness, and repaying loans.

Changes to the Paycheck Protection Program

Under the CARES Act, businesses could apply for a PPP loan, and they were required to spend the funds from these loans within eight weeks after receiving a loan. This time period has been modified to allow businesses to choose a reporting period of either 8 or 24 weeks. However, the 24-week period is from the loan origination date or until December 31, 2020, whichever is earlier (which may result in less than 24 weeks). This period can be used to restore a business’s workforce to pre-COVID-19 levels, and the deadline for doing so has been moved from June 30, 2020 to December 31, 2020. However, the deadline for applying for a PPP loan has not changed, and applications must be submitted by June 30, 2020.

If a business is unable to fully restore its workforce, there are some new exceptions that may apply that will still allow for forgiveness of PPP loans. These include provisions for businesses that are unable to rehire previous employees or other people with similar qualifications, as well as businesses that were unable to return to their previous level of business activity due to restrictions related to COVID-19.

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