Experts are saying that leaving your home and being in contact with others puts you at risk of falling ill with COVID-19. That’s why there are shelter-in-place orders throughout the U.S. to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. But if you’ve been deemed an essential worker, you’re likely still reporting to duty during the COVID-19 crisis.
First, we thank you! Second, does this mean you qualify for hazard pay? If so, how do you apply? And what does it mean for your paycheck? These are just a few questions you may be pondering.
Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.
What is hazard pay?
The U.S. Department of Labor defines hazard pay as “additional pay for performing hazardous duties or work involving physical hardship.” Simply put, it’s extra compensation on top of what you already earn in exchange for the danger your job duties pose.
What constitutes a dangerous environment in the eyes of employers? Beyond healthcare facilities that are flooded with COVID-19 patients, construction sites, steel mills, war zones, and settings where inclement weather is a factor are also hazardous. Additionally, hazard pay could apply to those working in grocery stores, construction site, mail rooms, sanitation jobs and other essential jobs given the impact of COVID-19 and widespread shelter in place orders.
Who qualifies for hazard pay?
Unfortunately, the federal government doesn’t provide a ton of insight regarding hazard pay. The U.S. Department of Labor does not currently regulate hazard pay and does not require that employers provide hazard pay. It’s up to individual employers to decide who qualifies for additional compensation. Each employer must also decide on the rate and duration for hazard pay.
There have been talks of another federal stimulus package that includes hazard pay for first responders, health care professionals, and other essential workers. Many in Congress have already proposed a $25,000 hazard pay raise for essential frontline workers who earn less than $200,000 per year. Senator Schumer (D – NY) has stated that getting hazard pay approved in the next phase relief bill “is one of our very highest priorities.” At the time of this article’s publication, a bill had not yet passed.
What do you need to apply for hazard pay?
There’s not a formal application, per se, to apply for hazard pay. In most instances, an employer will discuss the risks of the role and hazard pay with prospective employees before entering into an employment agreement. And when work commences, the benefits and compensation division of human resources will ensure that you are compensated accordingly. What’s happening now is that the “hazard” has increased immensely for many people on jobs on the frontline of COVID-19, such as in hospitals and grocery stores.
How much extra compensation could you receive?
As mentioned earlier, your employer will determine the rate for hazard pay. Some will offer it as a flat percentage of your hourly rate for the time spent in hazardous conditions. Others only pay a set fee each month, no matter how many hours you work.
To illustrate, assume you earn $15 per hour, and your employer agrees to a 20% premium for hazard pay. Your gross earnings for two weeks at 40 hours per week will be $1,440. If you only spend half of your time working in dangerous conditions, your earnings will decrease to $1,320.
Using that same scenario, if your employer offers a flat rate of $750 per month for hazard pay, your biweekly earnings will be $1,950.
How about overtime pay? You can still receive hazard pay on top of your standard compensation.
A Final Thought
Unsure of your employer’s policies on hazard pay? Reach out to the human resources department to inquire. They’re not legally obligated to extend this benefit in exchange for less than ideal working conditions. However, some employers offer additional compensation as a courtesy. And many are offering additional hazard pay accommodations during COVID-19’s unprecedented impact.
It’s also a good idea to review your employment contract for more information about hazard pay. A pandemic, like COVID-19, may qualify you for a larger paycheck.