On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Generally, the FFCRA requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specific reasons related to COVID-19. Ohnstad Twichell wants to ensure you, as an employer, are aware of how this law affects your business and employees. Following is a brief summary of key provisions affecting employers.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) requires public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees, to provide emergency paid sick leave to its employees based on certain COVID-related criteria. Full-time employees are entitled to two weeks (80 hours) of emergency paid sick leave, while part-time employees are entitled to paid leave for the typical number of hours they work in a two-week period. Employees are eligible for this paid leave regardless of how long they have been employed.
An employee is eligible for the paid leave if he or she is unable to work (or telework) based on the following reasons:
- The employee is subject to a Federal, State or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in paragraph (1) or who has been advised as described in paragraph (2).
- The employee is caring for a son or daughter whose school or child care provider is unavailable or has been closed due to COVID-19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
If the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to reasons (1), (2), or (3) listed above, the employee is eligible to receive his or her regular rate of pay, up to a maximum or $511 per day, and $5,110 in the aggregate.
If the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to reasons (4), (5), or (6), the employee is eligible to receive 2/3 their regular rate of pay, up to a maximum or $200 per day, and $2,000 in the aggregate.
Health care providers or emergency responders may be excluded from these paid sick leave requirements.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) expands upon the existing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires certain employers to provide employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for qualified medical and family reasons. The EFMLEA requires some public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees, to provide up to 12 weeks of paid, job-protected leave for an employee who is unable to work (or telework) because their child’s school or place of care has been closed or is unavailable due to a public health emergency declared by a Federal, State, or local authority with respect to COVID-19. To be eligible for this leave, the employee must have been employed for at least 30 days.
The first 10 days of leave under this Act may consist of unpaid leave. The employee may elect to use accrued vacation, personal, or sick leave during this period, but is not required to. The employee may also use paid leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act during this period.
After the first 10 days, employees are entitled to 2/3 their regular rate of pay for the number of hours the employee would normally be scheduled to work, up to a maximum of $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.
The EFMLEA also provides exemptions for certain health care providers and emergency responders, and also exempts small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the requirements would “jeopardize the viability of the business.”
Companies are required to return employees to the same or substantially equivalent position when their leave is over. However, there are certain exceptions to this requirement for employers with fewer than 25 employees.
The new law takes effect on April 1, 2020, and expires on December 31, 2020. Covered employers qualify for reimbursement in the form of tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Each employer covered by the FFCRA must post a notice of the requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises. The Department of Labor has published a sample notice on their website, which employers can utilize.
The Department of Labor has also issued a Questions and Answers publication to provide some initial guidance to employers on implementing this new law. It is expected that the Department of Labor will continue to provide further compliance assistance to employers and employees as necessary.
Employers should consult with counsel for the latest developments on the FFCRA.