Late last week, President Biden signaled that part of his overall plan to provide economic relief for American families and businesses amid the COVID-19 crisis is to broaden the availability of unemployment benefits to employees who quit their jobs related to Covid.
Allowing employees who quit in the name of “safety” to receive unemployment benefits presents a potential staffing nightmare for employers, especially considering that the America Rescue Plan (Biden’s the $1.9 trillion stimulus package being debated on Capitol Hill) proposes an additional $400 per week unemployment payments through the end of September. In Ohio, for example, that payment would increase the maximum weekly unemployment benefit to $1,072 (equivalent to an hourly wage of $26.80 or an annual salary of $55,744). At those numbers, lots of employees might opt to leave their jobs and take an extended, well-compensated vacation until the pandemic ends.
We need to make sure that we have rules that strike the proper balance between employees who have a legitimate reason not to work because of COVID-19, and employees who simply don’t want to work. Merely allowing employees to make that decision in their own exercise of discretion, and paying them a substantial benefit as a result, does not strike any balance at all.