Employers Should be Aware of New FFCRA Pandemic Leave Law
The world of employment law doesn’t move very quickly. New laws and rules are often debated, public comment taken, and laws proposed multiple times before being enacted However, we are in the age of COVID-19, and things are moving faster. You may not even be aware that a new law recently passed that affects employer and employee relationships.
The law is called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Much like the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the FFCRA requires that certain employers give leave to employees who need it, or who cannot work, because of COVID-19.
If an employee qualifies for leave under the FFCRA, the employee must be given two weeks (or 80 hours) of paid leave so long as the employee has COVID-19, is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or who is quarantined pursuant to any government order or on the advice of any health agency.
If the employee needs leave because the employee needs to take care of a sick family member or in order to care for a family member who is quarantined, the employee still needs to be paid, but only paid at 2/3 of the employees normal pay rate. This provision also extends to employees who must remain home to care for a child whose school is not open because of COVID, or where day care/child care is unavailable for the child.
Part time employees do not receive the 80 hours, but must receive the number of hours that the employee averages over a two-week time period.
These provisions apply to all employees. However, if an employee has been with the employer for more than 30 days, there are additional requirements. The law requires that the employee be given an additional 10 weeks of paid family medical leave at 2/3 of the employees regular pay, if the employee cannot work because of having to provide child care for a child whose school is closed because of COVID.
The FFCRA should be given particular attention by smaller businesses, because it is applicable to companies with less than 500 employees.
Smaller businesses, with less than 50 employees can get an exemption if providing leave to the employee threatens the viability of the business on a long term basis. However, the exemption only excuses the small business from the requirement to provide leave and payment as a result of closed schools or lack of childcare. It does not excuse the requirements of leave and payment for employees who are sick, quarantining, or taking care of sick relatives.
To soften the expense of potentially paying for employees who are unable to work, businesses can receive tax credits on a dollar-for-dollar calculation, for salary paid pursuant to the FFCRA.