The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on March 18, 2020. Employers need to understand the implications of this act. The act provides paid sick leave for employees who have to take time off due to the coronavirus. Specifically, employees suffering from the COVID-19 virus will be permitted two weeks of sick leave with full pay for the individual and 2/3 pay for family care. They will also be allowed to use up to 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave with the initial 10 days without pay and then up to 10 weeks at a rate of 2/3 pay. The latter applies to special circumstances related to the coronavirus. The Paid Sick Leave and FMLA will go into effect on April 2, 2020. They will end on December 31, 2020.
What Employer Need to Know About the Families First
There are two sections of the Families First act that are of particular importance for employers. These are:
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) mandates that employers who have fewer than 500 employees on their payroll must provide them with up to 12 weeks of leave for a healthy emergency related to COVID-19. To qualify for this benefit, an employee must not be able to work or telework because they have to care for a child under the age of 18 who is unable to attend school or daycare because of closures, or whose regular childminder is not available because of a situation related to the coronavirus.
Under the new ruling, the initial 10 days of the employee’s leave may either be unpaid or can use accrued medical, vacation, or personal leave. The employee may choose which. Once the initial 10 days have passed, the employer is responsible for providing paid leave for the remainder of the time away from work at a rate of no less than 2/3 of the employee’s regular pay.
The EFMLEA is different from the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) in that the latter is only available for workers whose employer has a minimum of 50 employees. The EFMLEA has also widened the scope of workers who are eligible for this type of leave. For example, under FMLA, only employees who have worked with employers for at least 12 months are allowed medical leave. Under the EFMLEA, employees need only to have been with the company for 30 days.
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) mandates that employers who have fewer than 500 workers provide paid sick leave on a temporary basis for any employees who cannot work because due to COVID-19:
They are required by the federal government or their state to self-isolate or self-quarantine
They have been advised to self-quarantine by their doctor
They are experiencing coronavirus symptoms and are awaiting test results
They are taking care of someone who has been ordered or advised to quarantine
They are caring for a child because of school and daycare closures or because their regular childminder is not available
Under EPSLA, the employee’s sick leave payment will depend on why the leave is necessary.
If the reason is one of the first three in the list above, then the sick leave pay will not exceed $511 per day ($5,110 in total). It the reason for the sick leave is one of the other reasons above, then the sick leave pay will not exceed $200 per day ($2,000 in total). The amount of sick leave pay granted also depends on whether employees work for employers full-time or part-time.
An exception to The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
The Department of Labor can make exceptions to EPSLA for employers with small businesses whose operation would be jeopardized if they paid sick time to an employee for one of the first three reasons in the list above.
Tax Credits for Employers
Employers will be provided with a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for the total amount of sick leave pay for each calendar quarter.