FAQ: 7 Critical Questions About HR Tech During COVID-19

Is now the time to buy HR software?As companies continue to navigate the crisis conditions of COVID-19, HR leaders have tough decisions to make about how to manage the workforce, support remote teams and keep processes running smoothly.

Depending on your industry and your business circumstances, you might be facing layoffs, team restructuring, technology issues, or even an increased demand for workers in some cases. Payroll and paid leave processes have had to change quickly to accommodate tax credits, small business loans, and new federal legislation. And that means your technology infrastructure has had to change, too.

According to Tara Fox of Bamboo HR, flexible response to these changes has been crucial to giving clients the support they need.

“We understand that many of our clients have had to lay off employees, and some are struggling,” said Fox. “Bamboo is willing to work with you to figure out a solution for your specific circumstances, and we're available to help 24/7.”

Bamboo isn’t alone in ramping up their support for clients who are juggling the new demands and compliance guidelines of COVID-19. As we reached out to other leading vendors in the HR technology space, we asked key questions about what they’re doing to support clients. We also asked what they would say to companies who are considering new software.

Here’s what we found.

What are the most important HR technology pieces companies need to support a remote workforce?

The best part about cloud-based systems is that you still have all your documents and data available at your fingertips, even if you are working from home. Employees can still access their time cards and managers can check in with teams on goals and performance. 

It’s also important to have integrated communication tools to keep everyone on the same page. Zoom is a good starting point, but you also need ways for people to collaborate on documents, share files, and message each other quickly. Some HR platforms have communication tools like forums and direct messaging built in so managers can interact with teams. If yours doesn’t have that, you can supplement with a tool like Slack. You can also support file sharing and collaboration with a project management platform like Microsoft Teams. 

How does HR software handle new guidelines like paid leave, sick leave, and the Payroll Protection Act?

Each vendor handles these questions differently, but customers can expect solutions to be available within the software in most cases. Software updates may include payroll calculations, leave policies, tax credit calculations, quartnerly Form 941s, deferred tax calculations, and other changes to accommodate new legislation. 

Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG), for example, has updated its service offering with the ability to configure earnings codes based on FFCRA sick leave and paid medical/family leave. They are also carefully monitoring all new compliance guidelines, providing updates as they become available so customers can configure pay codes within the timekeeping platform. Based on new federal regulations, customers can now access I-9 and E-verify processes without being physically present. The software can also automatically generate electronic documents for essential workers.

Similarly, Criterion is providing regular software updates based on new regulations that affect payroll processes, government-mandated leave policies, and pay policies. They have also created two different time-off plans based on FFCRA sick leave and FMLA leave policies. Plans are placed into the system with income and time off codes, and companies may choose whether or not to activate them.

Does your software have the necessary functionality to support compliance with FFCRA and PPP?

In order to pay employees who are receiving paid sick leave or family/medical leave under FFCRA, you will need to document and track leave requests according to DOL guidelines. You will also need configured earning codes which will calculate your credit, reduce the tax transfer and corresponding tax deposit, carry any excess tax credit forward, and properly reflect the credit on your Form 941. 

Businesses applying for a PPP loan will need to submit documentation that confirms the number of employees on your payroll, employee pay rates, payroll taxes, and other relevant information. 

Many software vendors have updated their platforms with additional earnings codes and functionalities based on these guidelines. 

For example, SentricHR has included four new earnings codes that cover sick leave, care for a dependent, care or schooling for a child, and payroll tax credits related to FFCRA payments. They have also added the documents that companies will need to submit a PPP application. These include:

  • PPP Payroll Cost Summary Reporting
  • Details of employer paid healthcare and retirement benefits (if kept in the system)
  • Labor Distribution Reports
  • 2019 Form 941 or 944 and Form 940
  • An early copy of First Quarter 2020 Form 941

What are the biggest pain points companies face with regard to remote technology?

There are a couple of areas where companies typically have questions, whether they are purchasing new software or working with a current vendor:

  • Tech Support – How will the company provide support in a remote environment? The good news is that if you are using a cloud-based system, remote tech support isn’t all that different from what you’re used to in the office. Most companies haven’t had downtime or glitches, and tech support personnel can still handle your questions over the phone. Internet speeds can cause hiccups if your employees don’t have enough bandwidth, but this hasn’t been a significant barrier in most cases.

  • Changes to compliance and tax regulations – Many vendors have issued updates to accommodate new guidelines. For example, Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG) has a comprehensive list of resources and information about how companies can optimize the software for specific challenges they may be facing in light of remote work and new legislation.

What are HR software companies doing to help companies that may be struggling in light of COVID-19?

Most providers will work with clients on a case-by-case basis to determine how best to meet each company’s specific needs. They are also providing regular software updates to make sure clients remain compliant in areas like payroll, paid leave, and HR issues.

BambooHR, for example, will work with clients even if they need to pause the account while the company gets back on its feet. Bamboo will preserve all the data and figure out a solution to get you up and running again. They also provide round-the-clock tech support to make sure every client has the access they need, when they need it.

How can HR software help get remote employees back to work when it’s time? 

Some vendors have made accommodations within the software to help customers manage employee interactions, both for essential workers who are still coming in to work each day and for workers who may be preparing to transition back to the office in the coming weeks. For example, UKG offers the following support:

  • Contact-Tracing Capability UKG offers automated reporting that keeps track of labor records and time/attendance information so companies can generate contact-tracing reports. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, these reports help leaders identify and notify employees who may have come into contact with that person.

  • Biometric Clock-In – If you use biometric clock-in functionality (such as a thumbprint scanner), you can temporarily disable this capability in the system to protect employees and prevent sickness transfer.

  • Mobile or Web Clock-In – Mobile or web clock-in not only makes it easy for remote employees to punch in and out everyday, but also for in-house workers to avoid sharing equipment. Employees simply clock in on their laptops or mobile devices.

Most vendors have also updated software to accommodate FFCRA paid leave guidelines and other new regulations so employees can transition seamlessly from working at home to working in the office (or vice versa).

Where Can I Find More Resources? 

Most HR software vendors have compiled a list of resources on their websites for clients. Many have also published guides or white papers about specific topics, so it pays to check out what content your vendor has. In addition, here are some resources we recommend:

  • An Employer's Interactive Guide to COVID Legislation (Sentric) - This guide helps you navigate required compliance as well as the loans, grants, tax credits and tax deferrals available to your business during this time. You'll find informaion on what actions you need to take, what relief you are eligible for, and how your HR & payroll partner can support you.
  • How to Support Working Parents During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Sentric) - Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, daycare facilities have closed and schools have adopted a variety of virtual and in-person instruction schedules. This e-book shows you how you can support employees through childcare concerns while helping them maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  • The Complete Playbook for HR Tech During Times of Crisis (UKG) - Use this guide to learn how you can use your HCM system to keep front-line employees safe, help remote employees stay connected, and support your business.

If your current software doesn't offer the functionality or documentation you need to effectively manage your workforce and stay on top of new guidelines, now is the perfect time to consider upgrading. It's worth the investment, and the support you receive will serve you well both during the current crisis and into the future. 

Software is a great way to keep us all connected even though we aren’t together right now,” said Tara Fox. “It helps us feel like we're still part of a team, because we can connect through the software, provide feedback and keep tabs on how everyone is doing.”


HRIS Comparison Tool