What’re Your Employer Responsibilities During a Temporary Business Closure?

At some point or another, you may find the need to temporarily shut down your business. Maybe your business is struggling with cash flow and needs to lay off workers. Or, maybe your business is facing a national emergency, like the coronavirus, and has no choice but to temporarily close its doors.

Whatever the case may be, you need to know your employer responsibilities during a temporary business closure. Read on to learn more about your duties as an employer, including coronavirus-related responsibilities.

Temporary business closure: 7 employer responsibilities

Temporary business closures don’t just happen to small or newer businesses. Even the most seasoned businesses may have to temporarily close down to rebound from things like:

  • Natural disasters
  • Low sales
  • National emergencies (e.g., COVID-19)

If you are in need of a temporary business closure checklist, you’ve come to the right place. Check out seven things you should be doing as an employer to temporarily close up shop.

1. Notify employees

When it comes to temporarily closing your business, you must communicate, communicate, communicate. First and foremost, let your employees know what’s going on and keep them in the loop as much as possible.

If you’re planning on closing temporarily, give ample notice to employees. That way, they can look into unemployment and COBRA benefits if they’re laid off temporarily.

Although it can be tough, letting employees know is an essential part of the process. Not to mention, how you handle telling employees can make or break whether or not they choose to return when you reopen. Consider hosting a group meeting to discuss the temporary business closure with affected employees and give employees an opportunity to ask questions.

If you plan on keeping certain employees on payroll (e.g., for part-time work), inform said employees about their hours being cut. And, don’t forget to continue to run payroll for employees who are still working for you during the temporary closure period.

Keep employees up-to-date with closure information by sending out emails or memos and having meetings.

If you’re temporarily closing down due to the COVID-19 crisis, notify employees by hosting your meetings virtually (e.g., Zoom). Consider also weighing other options, like allowing employees to work remotely, to avoid having to temporarily shut down altogether.

2. Inform customers and vendors

Along with notifying employees of your business’s temporary shut down, you must inform others about your closure, too. Here are some other individuals you need to reach out to:

  • Customers
  • Vendors
  • Suppliers
  • Investors

To keep customers well informed about your company’s temporary closure, post notices on your small business website, storefront, and social media pages. Post updates on your website and accounts to keep customers up-to-date about the status of your business.

Contact vendors and suppliers to let them know you need to temporarily suspend supplies and inventory. Use up what’s left of your inventory in the days leading up to temporary closure to prevent any waste.

Don’t forget to also contact inventors to let them know why your business is temporarily closing and when they can expect your business to reopen.

If you’re temporarily closing your business due to the coronavirus, include that information when you’re informing customers, vendors, suppliers, and investors.

3. Reach out to your bank

If you need to close your business temporarily due to an emergency or low cash flow, reach out to your bank or financial advisor to see what financing options you have.

There are a number of options out there for small businesses, including loan options and lines of credit. These options can help you recover more quickly from your situation and reopen your doors sooner.

If you don’t want to go the loan route, there are other alternatives, such as cutting costs and creating a new business budget. Your financial advisor can help you come up with a plan and show you where you can reduce expenses.

If your business is struggling and needs to temporarily close due to the coronavirus, you have coronavirus loan options to choose from. Check with your financial advisor, banking institution, or lender to find out which loan option is the best fit for your business.

4. Provide unemployment and COBRA information to employees

If you have to temporarily lay off or furlough employees due to a temporary business closure, provide impacted employees with unemployment and COBRA information.

Unemployment insurance provides benefits to eligible workers who are unemployed at no fault of their own. For example, many workers are finding themselves unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Give affected workers information about how they can apply for unemployment benefits through your state.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows employees, covered spouses, and dependents to continue their group health insurance coverage if they become ineligible for your company’s plan. If your company offers COBRA coverage and needs to make cuts, provide affected employees with COBRA details.

Keep in mind that you must offer COBRA coverage to employees if both of the following are true:

  • You employ at least 20 full-time equivalent employees on more than 50% of your typical business days in the past calendar year
  • You offer a private-sector group health plan to your employees

Don’t forget to include unemployment insurance and COBRA information (if applicable) in your employee handbook for easy access.

If you’re laying off employees due to the coronavirus, keep in mind that your state may provide a mass-layoff number (e.g., 1234567) for employers to use. This number may prevent your employer account from being affected. And, it speeds up the unemployment insurance process for employees so they can receive benefits sooner.

5. Filing employment forms

As an employer, one of the biggest responsibilities you have is filling out and filing employment and payroll forms. And, this responsibility doesn’t stop when you temporarily close your business.

Here are some forms you may still need to file when your business is temporarily closed:

  • Form W-2
  • Form W-3
  • Form 940
  • Form 941
  • Form 944
  • Forms 1094-B and 1095-B

The types of forms you need to file vary depending on the time of year (e.g., January) and your business. Keep track of form due dates to ensure you stay compliant and don’t miss deadlines even when your business is temporarily closed. Depending on the situation, you may be able to get an extension on your taxes.

When it comes to national emergencies, like the coronavirus pandemic, the government may push back filing and payment deadlines to help relieve small business owners during the crisis. To assist struggling businesses during the coronavirus, the government extended the April 15 business tax return deadline to July 15 and is allowing business owners to defer the employer portion of Social Security tax. Some cities and states are also allowing businesses to defer taxes (e.g., quarterly taxes).

6. Keep detailed records

If you’re planning on temporarily closing, keep detailed records about closure dates, employees who were laid off temporarily, any workers you paid during the closure, and transactions (if any) you had during the shutdown period.

Keeping records is especially important when a temporary store closure is something outside of your control (e.g., coronavirus). If you’re planning on taking out loans (e.g., Paycheck Protection Program) or taking advantage of a credit (e.g., Employee Retention Credit) due to the COVID-19 crisis, you must keep thorough records to back up your claims.

7. Follow federal and state laws

If you’re temporarily closing up shop, make sure you know your federal and state laws like the back on your hand.

Research employment laws in your state to find out which ones you need to follow to ensure you’re compliant, especially if you’re laying off employees.

As you’re well aware, closing down a business means laying off your employees. As a result, you must follow federal and state employment laws. Make sure you know laws about:

  • Unemployment
  • Payroll
  • Paid time off

If you’re temporary closing your business due to the coronavirus pandemic, stay compliant with new legislation, including the:

Check with your state to find out more information about state laws you must follow if you need to temporarily close your business. And, keep an eye out for additional coronavirus-related laws for employers and businesses.

Coronavirus and temporary closure of business

You may have additional responsibilities as an employer if you close your business temporarily due to the coronavirus. In addition to the tasks listed above, you may also need to offer coronavirus paid leave to employees who are still working and are impacted by the coronavirus.

You might be able to also take advantage of tax deferrals (e.g., Social Security tax deferment) and receive tax credits for your business. If you utilize payroll software, your provider will likely provide you with instructions on how to make the necessary changes in your software.

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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