Families First Coronavirus Response Act

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With Bill HR6201 passing on March 18, 2020, this puts into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act with the goal of providing relief to U.S. employees in the form of paid leave. This includes a provision for Emergency Paid Sick Leave, expanded coverage on Family and Medical Leave (FMLA), and payroll tax credits for new Paid Sick Leave and Paid FMLA. These provisions are only applied to the Coronavirus, or otherwise known as COVID-19.

The effective dates of this law will begin on April 2, 2020 and expire on December 31, 2020.

Emergency paid sick leave act immediate benefits

Coronavirus abstract background. Medical Genetics Bacteriological Microorganism.This emergency leave provides immediate benefits that allow all employees, regardless of tenure at a company, who are unable to work or work remotely because of one of the following conditions, to be paid for their time away from work. This applies to private employers with fewer than 500 employees and all public employers and agencies regardless of size.

Required conditions:

  1. The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
  2. The employee has been directed by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19
  3. The employee is seeking to obtain medical diagnosis when experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  4. To care for a family member, who is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
  5. To care for a child (under 18 years of age), whose school has closed or paid childcare provider is unavailable due to the COVID-19
  6. If the employee is experiencing any other substantially similar conditions as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services

Full-time employees can receive up to 80 hours of sick leave. Pay rate is 100% of the employee’s regular rate of pay for above causes one through three; and 2/3 of their regular rate of pay for causes four through six.

Part-time employees can receive leave based on the number of hours on average the employee works over a two-week period of time.

The Act does provide a cap on paid leave to $511 per day and $5,110 in total per employee. For employees receiving 2/3 rate of pay, the cap on paid leave is $200 per day and $2,000 in total per employee.   

Rules:

  • The new law requires the employer to allow the employee to first use sick leave provided under this law, then decide to use any remaining accrued paid leave under an employer’s policy. The employer cannot require the employee to use accrued leave first
  • Any paid leave provided by the employer before this law’s effective date cannot be credited against the employee’s paid leave entitlement
  • This benefit ends on December 31, 2020 and cannot be rolled over

Expanded coverage under the emergency family and medical leave act

New coronavirus 2019-ncov. 3D medical illustrationThis expanded coverage provides up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for employees on the company’s payroll for 30 or more days to take job-protected leave for a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” Meaning, an employee is unable to work/telework due to a need to care for a son or daughter under the age of 18 years of age. This is if the school or place of childcare for an employee’s child is closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable due to COVID-19. This is only available if the employee cannot work from home.

Eligibility:

  • Private employers with fewer than 500 employees
  • Public employers regardless of size
  • Any full-time or part-time employee that has been on the employer’s payroll for 30 calendar days
  • Excludes employees, who are healthcare providers or emergency responders

Pay:

  • The first 10 days (two weeks) are unpaid, but an employee can substitute accrued paid leave, including Emergency Paid Sick Leave
  • The remaining 10 weeks are paid at 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate, for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be scheduled to work – with a maximum payment of $200 per day and $10,000 total per employee

Payroll tax credit eligibility

Employers are eligible for a refundable tax credit equal to 100% or qualified paid sick leave and family leave wages paid by an employer for each calendar quarter, subject to the following caps:

  • Sick leave wages paid with respect to employees, who must self-quarantine, obtain a diagnosis or care for symptoms, or comply with a self-isolation recommendation or order from a public health official or healthcare provider, are capped at $511 per day for purposes of the payroll tax credit
  • Sick leave wages paid to employees caring for a family member or for a child, whose school or place of care has been closed, at 2/3 of pay or capped at $200 per day
  • Family leave wages under the expanded FMLA are taken into account for each employee are capped at $200 per day and $10,000 for all calendar quarters

Frequently asked questions

Can I require an employee to use accrued sick leave prior to giving leave under this Act?

  • The Emergency Paid Sick Leave provision requires employers to allow employees to first use time under the new law then to allow remaining time off to be supplemented by any accrued sick leave.

Can I require employees to submit a notice for the reason of leave?

  • Due to the number of increased testing, employees should provide a notice of the reason for leave to the extent possible.

I already provided two weeks of additional paid leave to employees prior to this law going into effect. Can I credit that against an employee paid leave entitlement under this Act?

  • Due to the law’s effective date of April 2, 2020, any additional leave that was given to employees prior to this law cannot be counted towards an employee’s leave entitlement under the Act.

Does the same job protection under federal FMLA apply to this expanded coverage under this law?

  • Yes, an employer must restore an employee to the same or equivalent position upon return to work. With one exception: if you have less than 25 employees and the employee’s position doesn’t exist because of operational changes due to this public health emergency, you are not required to restore them to the position that no longer exists. However, employers should make a reasonable effort to contact employees for one year following this displacement if an equivalent position does become available within the company.

Can time off granted under this law be carried over into 2021?

  • The hours granted under this leave or provided to employees prior to this law going into effect cannot be carried over after December 31, 2020. Leave under this law ends after employees return to work, and the law expires on December 31, 2020.

How does unemployment work with this law?

  • If a company doesn’t have the resources to continue to pay employees and has to temporarily terminate, reduce hours, or layoff employees, it is recommended that the employee contact their state unemployment office for assistance.

We have shut down office operations, and all employees are teleworking now. How does this new Act apply?

  • If employees are able to telework with company resources provided, this Act does not apply. This only applies to employees, who are unable to work under the reasons as stated above and under the law.

Does this Act apply for fear of infection?

  • An employer is not required to accommodate an employee’s fear of infection. However, this anxiety could be eligible under other leave policies like the Federal FMLA or ADA.

Additional information

Additional information on COVID-19 can be found on your local state Department of Health website or by visiting one of the following:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration

World Health Organization

U.S. Small Business Administration

About our Authors

Jenny Andrews

Jenny Andrews

MANAGING DIRECTOR
Jenny has many years of talent acquisition, employee development and employee relations experience. As a dedicated HR professional and talent development specialist, Jenny applies a unique and diverse skill set, the product of her extensive experiences as an operations executive as well as a HR business partner.

Karlie Hinman

Karlie Hinman

CONSULTANT
Karlie is responsible for collaborating with her team as well as working directly with clients to assist them in meeting their various human resources needs. She is a key resource for peers and clients in the areas of compliance, recruitment, training and development, policy development, procedure implementation, benefits administration, performance management creation and implementation, employee file audits and much more.

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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