Key Points about Emergency Paid Sick Leave and FMLA under the Coronavirus Relief Act:
- The second coronavirus relief package will go into effect on April 1, 2020.
- This legislation provides emergency paid sick leave and extended family and medical leave to most employees (there are some exceptions).
- In general, if your organization has less than 500 employees, you are required to provide each full-time employee with 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave and 12 weeks of protected family leave.
- Under this Act, you will be reimbursed via payroll tax credits for any emergency paid sick or family leave you provide.
To limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, federal, state, and local governments have mandated social-distancing measures and non-essential business shutdowns. This means that millions of workers are forced to stay home, many of them facing unemployment or weeks without pay.
To help these individuals, the Federal Government has signed a new piece of legislation: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). This aid package provides emergency paid sick leave, extended family leave, enhanced unemployment benefits, and free COVID-19 testing, among other provisions.
The FFCRA applies to organizations with less than 500 employees. However, there may be exceptions for small businesses with less than 50 employees and companies that employ healthcare workers and emergency responders.
The finalized FFCRA signed by President Trump will go live on April 1, 2020 and expire on December 31, 2020. Here’s what you need to know about the Act and how it may impact your organization:
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
How much emergency paid sick leave do I need to provide?
You must give covered full-time employees 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave.
You must give covered part-time employees emergency paid sick leave equal to the amount of time they would normally work in a two-week period.
Under what circumstances can my employees use emergency paid sick leave?
Eligible employees can use emergency paid sick leave if:
- The federal, state, or local government orders the employee to quarantine or isolate because of COVID-19
- A healthcare professional tells the employee to self-quarantine due to COVID-19
- The employee has COVID-19 symptoms and is waiting for medical diagnosis
- The employee is caring for a family member who is subject to quarantine or isolation*
- The employee is caring for a family member who has COVID-19 symptoms or has been ordered by a healthcare professional to self-quarantine*
- The employee is caring for their children whose schools or places of care are closed because of COVID-19
- The employee is experiencing other substantially similar conditions (as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of Treasury)
*Under the FFCRA, a “family member” can be a(n):
- Child (under 18)
- Son or daughter
- Next of kin
- Senior citizen
- Individual with a disability
- Individual with other functional needs
Which employees are eligible?
Both full-time and part-time employees are eligible.
Employees do not need to have worked for you for a certain length of time in order to take this leave.
How much do I compensate employees who take emergency paid sick leave?
If your employee is taking leave because they’re dealing with their own COVID-19 health issues or are subject to mandatory isolation or quarantine, you must pay them minimum wage or their normal rate of pay (whichever is greater). The amount of emergency paid sick leave you can give these employees is capped at $511/day (or $5,110 total).
If your employee is taking leave to care for someone else, you must pay them minimum wage or two-thirds their normal rate of pay (whichever is greater). The amount of emergency paid sick leave you can give these employees is capped at $200/day (or $2,000 total).
Can emergency paid sick leave replace paid sick leave I already offer?
No. You must provide emergency paid sick leave in addition to any paid sick leave you already provide to your employees.
However, it’s important to note that the FFCRA does not trump or interfere with your pre-existing sick leave policies or any other applicable laws. Many local and state governments, for instance, already mandate paid sick leave. Others are creating their own emergency paid sick leave laws in light of COVID-19. If your organization operates in an area with its own paid sick leave requirements, those local laws may take precedence over the FFCRA.
Can I require my employees to use other paid time off before using the new emergency paid sick leave?
No. Eligible employees are free to use emergency paid sick leave before they use other, pre-existing paid time off.
Does emergency paid sick leave carry over?
No. Emergency paid sick leave will not carry over past December 31, 2020.
What else do I need to know?
- You cannot retaliate against employees who take emergency paid sick leave.
- You cannot force employees who take emergency paid sick leave to find replacements for their work shifts.
- You must post a notice that informs employees of their right to emergency paid sick leave under the FFCRA. This notice will be created by March 25, 2020.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Expansion
How much protected family leave do I need to provide?
Under the FMLA expansion, you must provide up to 12 weeks of protected family leave to covered employees. The first 10 days of this leave will be unpaid. After the 10th day of unpaid leave, the remaining 10 weeks of protected family leave must be paid.
During those first 10 days of unpaid leave, your employees may choose to substitute existing paid leave (like vacation days or the emergency paid sick leave noted above) so they’ll be paid during that time. You cannot require them to do this.
Under what circumstances can my employees use paid family leave?
Eligible employees may take this leave if they’re unable to work (in-office or remotely) because their own child’s school or place of care is shut down due to a public health emergency declared by the federal, state, or local government in response to COVID-19.
Which employees are eligible?
Only employees who have been employed by you for at least 30 calendar days are eligible for expanded FMLA leave. As long as this criterion is met, both full-time and part-time employees are eligible.
How much do I compensate employees who take family leave?
You must give eligible employees 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of their regular wage rate. During this period, you must compensate them for the amount of hours they would normally work.
The amount of paid leave you can give an employee is capped at $200/day (or $10,000 total).
Do I need to reinstate employees who take family leave?
In most cases, yes. When an employee returns from leave, you will need to reinstate them to their position or an equivalent role.
If your organization has less than 25 employees, you may be exempt if the employee’s position no longer exists due to economic challenges or operational changes resulting from the COVID-19 emergency. However, you must make a reasonable effort to reinstate the employee. If you can’t offer a comparable position, you must continue your efforts for at least a year and contact the employee if a position becomes available.
Refundable Tax Credits
You will be fully reimbursed via payroll tax credits for any emergency paid sick or family leave you provide under the FFCRA. You won’t need to make any deposits to the IRS. Instead, you’ll be able to keep payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying emergency leave you provided.
The payroll taxes you’re able to retain include withheld federal income taxes and the employee and employer shares of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with respect to all employees.
If you have more payroll tax credit than you have taxes, you’ll be refunded the excess amount. If this happens to your organization, you can file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS, which will process your request within 2 weeks.
The IRS will provide more information about this process at a later date.
The White House just finalized another COVID-19 financial aid package worth roughly $2 trillion. This stimulus gives additional aid to small businesses and direct payments and benefits to tax-paying individuals. More information about the bill and its exact offerings will be published soon.
The plan is expected to go live within the next few days.
From all of us at Sentric, we hope your family and community stay safe and healthy during this uncertain time. We’ve listed some helpful resources below regarding the FFCRA and the new challenges that COVID-19 presents:
- H.R.6201 Families First Coronavirus Response Act to view the complete Act and all of its provisions.
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers for FAQs and answers about the FFCRA.
- Coronavirus Tax Relief for the latest updates on tax relief from the IRS.
- CDC and WHO websites for the latest news and updates from health experts.
- How to Prepare Your Organization for the Novel Coronavirus if you don’t already have preparations in place.
- 9 Ways You Can Support Remote Workers if most of your employees are now working from home.