Understanding the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (FFCRA)
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In just a couple of weeks the world as we’ve known it has drastically changed, including in the workplace. Many businesses have shuttered their doors until further notice or have shifted to telework for some, if not all, of their workforce. These shifts translate to a massive impact to the economy and to the financial stability of a large number of businesses and employees. Those businesses who can remain in operation are now struggling to plan for the future and maintain the stability of their organization through very uncertain times. Though the situation is bleak, there is new legislation that can help to ease the strain for many, the FFCRA. We’ve compiled information on some of the most recent changes to legislation as well as some resources to share with employees.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6021) is an extension of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave to eligible employees of covered employers for specified family and medical reasons. In addition to being applicable to businesses with 500 or fewer employees, it also provides pay leave to employees who miss work for certain coronavirus related reasons. There are a few areas of interest specific to employers, Paid Leave and Paid Sick Leave. Let’s digger deeper into what that looks like.
- Effective April 2, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
- Applicable to businesses with 500 or fewer employees (some exceptions apply).
- Available to employees who have worked for the employer for at least 30 days.
- Employers are required to post a notice of FFCRA requirements in a conspicuous plain on its premises. For those employers whose staff is working remotely, the notice should be shared via email. Model notice is due to be released no later than March 25, 2020. Please check back for an update when released.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
There are two qualified reasons why an employee may request this leave:
- Applies to employees unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:
- is subject to a quarantine or isolation order
- has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine dur to coronavirus concerns, or
- is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and seeking a medical diagnosis
- Employees approved for this leave will be paid their regular pay, up to $511/day (and $5,110 total over the benefit period)
- Also applies to employees unable to work or telework due to a need for leave because the employee is:
- caring for a family member who is subject to quarantine or an isolation order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to coronavirus concerns,
- caring for their child because their school or day care is closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to coronavirus precautions; or
- is experiencing “any other substantially similar condition specified by” the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.
- Employees approved for this leave will be paid two-thirds of their regular pay, up to $200/day (and $2,000 total over the benefit period).
Other Important Details of the FFCRA
- Eligible full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick time and eligible part-time employees are entitled to an amount equal to the average number of hours such employee works over a 2-week period.
- Paid sick leave is available for immediate use and is not subject to a waiting period
- Employees are not required to use other available paid leave before the employee uses the paid sick time provided under this section
- The Emergency Paid Sick Leave allotment does not carry over from year to year
- Employers may not require employees taking this paid sick leave to find a replacement to cover their shifts
- Applies to employees who are unable to work (or telework) due to the closure of schools or because childcare providers are unavailable as a result of a public health emergency.
- Provided up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave
- Employees approved for this leave are to be paid no less than two-thirds of their regular pay, up to $200/per day and $10,000 over the benefit period. The first 10 days taken may be unpaid, but the employee has the option to use other paid leave options available to them during this time.
- Employees must provide the employer with enough notice as is practical when requesting leave.
- Employers of employees who are health care providers or emergency responders may elect to exclude such an employee.
- The Secretary of Labor has the authority to exclude certain health care providers or emergency responders from the definition of eligible employees and to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if compliance with the requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business.
Prohibitions in the FFCRA
Employers may not discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who takes paid sick leave under the FFCRA and files a complaint or institutes a proceeding under or related to the FFCRA.
Penalties and Enforcement
Employers in violation of the first two weeks paid sick time or unlawful termination provisions of the FFCRA will be subject to the penalties and enforcement described in Sections 16 and 17 of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 29 U.S.C. 216; 217. Employers in violation of the provisions providing for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid leave to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or childcare provider is unavailable) are subject to the enforcement provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Department will observe a temporary period of non-enforcement for the first 30 days after the FFCRA takes effect, so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act. For purposes of this non-enforcement position, “good faith” exists when violations are remedied and the employee is made whole as soon as practicable by the employer, the violations were not willful, and the Department receives a written commitment from the employer to comply with the Act in the future.
Would you like to consult with an HR Advisor about the “Families First COVID-19 Response Act?” Do you have questions about how to implement this new legislation at your business. Law 4 Small Business is here to help!