A Complete Guide to Ohio Employee Benefits During COVID-19

Gusto Editors

If you live and work in Ohio, whether as an employee or employer, it’s important to understand employee benefit requirements and the resources available to you. As an employer, it’s important to comply with state law, as well as to keep your employees productive and satisfied. As an employee, you should understand  all the benefit programs that you are entitled to as well. 

Ohio is not exempt from the economic fallout associated with the spread of COVID-19. For many Ohioans, the pandemic means reduced hours, furloughs, and even layoffs. Employers are similarly reckoning with how to keep their businesses afloat while meeting their obligations to their employees. As a result, many states, Ohio included, have made  emergency measures to help ease the burden on those employees and employers affected by the pandemic.

To help employees and employers alike in Ohio navigate these difficult times, this guide offers a look at some of the major benefits programs intended to help extend support to Ohio residents. 

State unemployment insurance benefits in Ohio

In Ohio, employers and employees both pay into the state unemployment insurance fund through an unemployment tax. Ohio’s unemployment insurance benefits are managed by the state Department of Job and Family Services (JFS). 

To be eligible for unemployment in Ohio, applicants must fit the following criteria:

  • You must have worked for 20 weeks during the base period used to determine unemployment earnings
  • You must have earned at least $269 per week during the base period
  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own such as voluntary resignation
  • You must be available to work, able to work, and be actively looking for work

The quickest way to file an unemployment claim in Ohio is to apply online. To do so:

  1. Visit unemployment.ohio.gov and create an account or log in to your existing account
  2. Click “File a New Claim for Unemployment Benefits”
  3. Fill out the requested information, including eligibility questions
  4. Register for job matching opportunities
  5. Choose benefits payment method, either debit card or direct deposit
  6. Certify accuracy of all information

Once you file an application for unemployment insurance benefits, your claim will be assigned to a processing center. Once approved, you must file a weekly claim for each week you are unemployed or earn less than your weekly benefit amount. 

How has COVID-19 affected unemployment in Ohio?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment applications can be expedited by entering a Mass-Layoff/Buyout Identification Number on the application, which is 2000180. In addition, unemployment benefits are retroactive to the time you became eligible, regardless of any delays in application processing. 

Due to the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Ohioans who are approved for unemployment insurance benefits will also receive an additional $600 per week in a separate payment. No additional action is needed to claim the additional $600 per week.

Employers who must close and lay off employees during the coronavirus pandemic should understand their obligations under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988. That law requires employers to provide employees with 60 calendar days’ advance notice of any workplace closings or mass layoffs that will last more than six months. While it remains unclear how long the coronavirus pandemic and associated social distancing measures will last, employers who plan to lay off at least 50 full-time employees or one-third of their workforce should first consult with an attorney about their obligations under the law.

Paid time off in Ohio

In Ohio, employers are not obligated to provide paid or unpaid vacation time. Similarly, Ohio does not require employers to extend sick leave to employees either, whether paid or unpaid. However, if an employer chooses to extend vacation time or sick leave to employees, it is important they establish clear policies around accrual and whether an employee could be compensated for unused accrued leave when their employment ends. While Ohio recognizes 11 public holidays, private employers are not required to extend paid or unpaid holiday leave to their employees on public holidays. 

Does paid time off legislation in Ohio change due to the Coronavirus pandemic?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ohio state legislature adopted a widespread legislative package related to the coronavirus. However, that legislation did not contain any information regarding paid leave for employees impacted by the illness 

The Federal Family First Coronavirus Response Act did establish a federal emergency paid leave program to support employees taking unpaid leave due to COVID-19. That law covers private employers with at least 50 employees up to 500 employees. 

Health care benefits in Ohio

While there is no state law in Ohio requiring employers to offer healthcare benefits to their employees, most do offer some form of group health insurance to their workforce. When an employer does choose to offer health insurance, they must abide by standards laid out by state law. These standards are known as “mandated benefits.” These include benefits such as coverage for emergency services, mammography, inpatient services related to maternity care, and more. 

Employers in Ohio are required to abide by the federal healthcare insurance standards laid out under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent (FTE) employees must offer affordable health insurance under the “employer shared responsibility” component of the ACA. Health insurance plans must meet the minimum essential coverage as described under the law.

How healthcare benefits in Ohio are changing due to COVID-19

The Ohio Department of Insurance released guidance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that changed the state rules regarding healthcare benefits for employees. The guidance applied to insurance companies, employers, and government health plans. The guidance included the following measures:

  • Group health plan eligibility restrictions were waived
  • Premium increases due to reduced enrollment were prohibited
  • Continuation of coverage rules were expanded
  • Insurance companies were required to maintain coverage for employees with reduced hours
  • Insurance companies were required to provide a deferred payment option up to 60 days interest free
  • Employees who lose coverage will have access to a special enrollment period and a waiver of certain enrollment procedures when coverage is purchased on the federal exchange

In addition to these changes, the State Medical Board of Ohio permitted medical providers to use telemedicine in place of in-person visits and suspended enforcement of in-person visit requirements. Telemedicine can now be used in the prescribing of controlled substances, prescribing to new patients, medical marijuana recommendations, and office-based treatment for opioid addiction. However, providers must document their use of telemedicine technologies to ensure it meets the minimum standards of care. 

Disability insurance in Ohio

In Ohio, disability insurance is provided through the state Division of Disability Determination. To apply for disability insurance, Ohioans should apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through the federal Social Security Administration (SSA). To be eligible for disability insurance in Ohio, you must be unable to perform your job role for more than 14 days. You must also be a full-time employee or part-time employee who has worked 1,500 hours or more than 12 months prior to your disability.

If your claim for disability insurance benefits is approved, there is a 14-day waiting period before any payments are disbursed. Any paid leave time offered by your employee can be used during the waiting period. Disability leave benefits are 67% of the employee’s base rate of pay for a maximum period of 12 months. 

Does disability insurance change in Ohio as a result of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is not considered a disability under state law or the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Ohioans who are out of work due to COVID-19 are eligible for the state’s expanded unemployment insurance benefits, however.

Workers’ compensation in Ohio

Workers’ compensation insurance similarly covers injured workers. It is overseen by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). Workers’ compensation covers employee medical benefits and lost wages, as well as the payment of death benefits to survivors when death occurs from a workplace injury or illness. Employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance. To apply for workers’ compensation in Ohio, visit the BWC website.

Has workers’ comp been extended in Ohio due to the coronavirus?

The Ohio BWC cannot extend workers’ compensation benefits to employees quarantined due to COVID-19. Ohioans who are out of work due to COVID-19 are eligible for the state’s expanded unemployment insurance benefits, however. 

Child care benefits in Ohio

Ohio maintains a program called the Publicly Funded Child Care (PFCC) program, which supports working parents and parents in school with public assistance. Some applicants might be required to provide a copayment when accepted under the PFCC, depending on their gross income and the size of their family. To apply for the PFCC, visit the Department of Job and Family Services website and complete the following steps:

  • Create a Self-Service Portal (SSP) account
  • Verify your identity
  • Log in to the SSP account
  • Complete the application for the PFCC program
  • Submit the application

How has COVID-19 impacted child care in Ohio?

The coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of schools and childcare centers throughout the state, creating a particular challenge for essential workers. As directed by executive order EO 2020-02D, the Department of Job and Family Services announced the creation of temporary pandemic child care centers, which would include both existing and new child care facilities. Additionally, the executive order expanded the number of paid absent days from 10 to 20 for providers serving children in the Publicly Funded Child Care program. It also provided child care programs with 21 paid days if they must close their facility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Retirement benefits in Ohio

In Ohio, retired public employees are part of the Ohio Public Employees’ Retirement System (OPERS), which provides pension benefits and healthcare coverage. The fund is paid into by employees and the state of Ohio over the duration of employment. Under Ohio state law, private employers are not required to extend retirement benefits to their employees.To learn more about paycheck protection programs, small business loans, and other relief resources, visit our  COVID-19 small business relief finder or Ohio COVID-19 resource hub.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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