Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What employers and employees need to know about emergency paid sick leave and family leave.
As the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic rapidly alters the way many Americans work and live, certain employers will now need to be prepared for significant paid sick and family leave changes going into effect in less than two weeks.
The recently enacted “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (FFCRA), which goes into effect on April 2, 2020, and continues until December 31, 2020, is designed to ease the economic burden felt by many Americans who have been forced to quarantine or isolate themselves during the current health crisis. Of particular importance for employees and employers alike, the FFCRA requires small and midsize companies to provide emergency paid sick leave and family leave to their employees in connection with the pandemic.
The key provisions of the FFCRA, which applies to employers with less than 500 employees, are detailed below.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave under the FFCRA
Coverage: The FFCRA requires employers to provide “emergency paid leave” to employees if they are unable to work for one of the following reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic:
- The employee is subject to a local, state, or federal quarantine or isolation order;
- The employee has been advised to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider;
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and seeking medical diagnosis for those symptoms;
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine order or who has been advised to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider;
- The employee is caring for a child because the child’s school or place of care has been closed due to the coronavirus;
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Amount of Leave: The length of leave available to each employee depends on his or her employment status. Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick time, whereas part-time employees are entitled to sick time equal to the number of hours that the employee works on average over a two-week period.
Amount of Pay: The amount of pay received by an employee for sick leave under the FFCRA depends on the reason for the leave. If sick leave is needed for reasons (1) through (3) above, then the employee’s sick leave will be paid at his/her regular rate, with a cap of $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate. If sick time is needed for reasons (4) through (6) above, then paid leave is reduced to two-thirds of the regular rate of pay and capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate.
Eligibility: There is no waiting period for employees to take leave. All employees will be immediately eligible, regardless of how long they have been employed with their current employer.
Notice: To assist employers, the Secretary of Labor intends to provide a model notice that should be furnished to employees regarding emergency paid leave within seven days of the bill’s enactment. Employers will also be required to post notices detailing the requirements of the FFCRA in conspicuous places on the employer’s premises.
No Retaliation: Like many laws designed to protect employees, the FFCRA specifically prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who takes advantage of emergency paid leave under the FFCRA or who has filed a proceeding or complaint related to the law.
Exemptions: Because some small businesses may find it difficult to cope with these new requirements, under appropriate circumstances the Department of Labor has authority to issue regulations exempting small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from paying sick leave if paying the sick leave would jeopardize the employer’s ability to continue operating.
Emergency Paid Family Leave under the FFCRA
The FFCRA also expands leave protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act, requiring employers to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of leave if they are unable to work as a result of school closures or loss of childcare.
Coverage: Specifically, employees will be eligible for job-protected leave if they are unable to work or telework because they need to leave work to care for their child (under the age of 18) whose school or place of care has closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable because of a declared emergency by a local, state, or federal authority.
Amount of Leave: Although the FFCRA provides employees with up to 12 weeks of leave, the first 10 days of the employee’s leave may consist of unpaid leave. An employee may choose to substitute accrued paid vacation, personal, or sick leave (or any other paid time off) for the unpaid leave but is not required to do so.
Amount of Pay: In connection with their leave, employees will be paid at a rate of two-thirds of their regular rate of pay, taking into account the number of hours the employee would otherwise normally be scheduled to work, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate.
Eligibility: Unlike the paid sick leave benefits described in the previous section, only employees who have been employed for a minimum of 30 days will be eligible for paid family leave. There is, however, no required number of hours that must be worked during that 30-day period to be eligible.
Exemptions: Similar to the paid sick leave obligations discussed in the previous section, the Department of Labor has authority to issue regulations exempting small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from paying family leave if paying the leave would jeopardize the employer’s ability to continue operating.
Tax Credits for Employers under the FFCRA
The FFCRA also creates a refundable tax credit for employers, for each calendar quarter, in an amount equal to 100 percent of any qualified sick or family leave wages paid by the employer, subject to certain caps, withholdings, and taxations.
Let us help
Henson Efron has extensive experience in business, litigation, and employment-related matters, and our firm is committed to providing you with critical, up-to-date, and actionable information during this rapidly changing crisis. For more information on the FFCRA or other business and employment-related issues, please contact Henson Efron at 612-339-2500 or email.
The purpose of this article is merely to provide general information and should not be construed as legal advice.