Guidance on high-risk employees – worker’s rights

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On April 8, 2021, the Governor’s office issued Proclamation 20-46.3 “High-Risk Employees – Worker’s Rights”, which amends this proclamation’s previous versions. One of the changes directly implicates employer-sponsored health insurance benefits. The guidance we provided on 3/12/20 and 8/30/20 (related to RCW 41.05.744 [ESSB 6189 section 5 (2020)]) remains in effect until the Governor’s state of emergency ends.  

Under version 20.46.3, employers are no longer required to maintain all employer-related health insurance benefits. If an employer is going to make any changes to an employee’s eligibility for the employer contribution, the employer must give the employee 14 calendar days’ advanced written notice itemizing the changes. The employer can make the changes effective starting the calendar month after the expiration of the 14-day notice period.

Before making changes, keep in mind that employees may still be eligible for benefits under FMLA or Pub.L. 103-3. Also consider the SEBB Program rule regarding leave without pay (LWOP) found in WAC 182-31-100, and eligibility rules during the COVID-19 state of emergency found in RCW 41.05.744.

Upon termination, employees will receive the SEBB Continuation Coverage Election Notice. If the employee’s loss of coverage is due to a reduction in hours, they may be eligible for the COBRA subsidy. If the employee is eligible for the COBRA subsidy, please use reason code 56 when you terminate coverage.

Lastly, please remember that employers must provide written notice to an employee when their eligibility for SEBB benefits ends, and that notice must include appeal rights.

Should you have any questions on this guidance, please contact us via FUZE.