With the continued spread of COVID-19, employers are working to balance employee health and well-being with their organization’s operational needs. Meanwhile, both the federal and state government are enacting measures to both protect employees and to assist employers facing operational challenges caused by the pandemic. The latest update, from the federal government, is summarized here.
President Signs Into Law Paid Sick Leave and Expanded FMLA Coverage
On March 18, the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which goes into effect on April 1, 2020. The law requires most employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide the following benefits through December 31, 2020:
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
- Two weeks of paid sick leave to both full and part-time employees, up to $511 per day (and $5,100 in the aggregate), for employees who
- Have been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- Are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting diagnosis, or experiencing any substantially similar condition specified by the Department of Health and Human Services; or
- Are subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
- Two weeks paid sick leave, up to $200 per day (and $2,000 in the aggregate), for employees who
- Are caring for an individual subject to a quarantine or isolation order; or
- Are caring for a child if the child’s school or childcare provider is unavailable.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
- Temporarily expands FMLA coverage to all employees who have been employed at least 30 days.
- Includes employers with fewer than 50 employees unless the required leave would jeopardize the viability of their business.
- Provides job restoration to employers with 25 or more employees. Employers with fewer than 25 employees may be excused from this obligation if the position no longer exists at the conclusion of leave and if the employer has exhausted reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position within a year after the leave ends or the public health emergency concludes, whichever is earlier.
- Paid leave for employees unable to report to work or telework because they must care for a child under 18 whose school or daycare has been closed (or whose paid childcare provider is unavailable because of a public health emergency).
- The first ten days of leave is unpaid, except that employees may be able to use their accrued paid time off, or paid sick leave, during this period.
- Employees receiving payment under this provision must be paid at least 2/3 of their regular rate of pay and based on their usual work hours, subject to the caps below.
- Pay is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate, per employee.
- Employers with less than 50 employees and for whom such leave would jeopardize their viability maybe be exempt from having to grant requested leave.
Employers receive a dollar-for-dollar payroll tax credit for the cost of paying COVID-related sick leave and EFMLA. The credit can be used to offset federal income taxes and both the employee and employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. Additional information regarding the tax credit is available here.
All covered employers must also post a notice of the FFCRA requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises. An employer may also satisfy this requirement by emailing or direct mailing the notice to employees, or by posting the notice on an employee information internal or external website. The Department of Labor has issued two posters, one for federal workers and one for all other employees, which fulfill this notice requirement.