Understanding FFCRA - The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Article Summary

  1. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020, requiring private employers with less than 500 employees to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons relating to COVID-19.
  2. NOTE: Smaller employers with less than 50 employees may apply for an exemption from the expanded family leave provisions.
  3. Under EPSLA, qualifying employers are required to offer emergency paid sick leave to employees that meet one of six criteria for absences relating to COVID-19.
  4. Any employees paid sick leave or family leaves taken before April 1st for reasons related to COVID-19 would not qualify for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act paid leave benefits.
  5. The good news for employers is that eligible businesses will receive refundable tax credits for emergency paid sick leave and EFMLEA, paid out each quarter.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law by President Trump on March 18, 2020, requiring private employers with less than 500 employees to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons relating to COVID-19. The FFCRA went into effect on April 1, 2020, and is scheduled to continue until December 31, 2020. It created two new emergencies paid leave requirements in response to the global pandemic.

  • The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) entitles certain employees to take up to two weeks of paid sick leave.
  • The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) amends Title 1 of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and allows certain employees to take up to twelve weeks of expanded family and medical leave (10 of which are paid) for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

NOTE: Smaller employers with less than 50 employees may apply for an exemption from the expanded family leave provisions. This only applies if the required leave would jeopardize the viability of the business.

Let’s take a closer look at the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and what it means for employers.

Under EPSLA, qualifying employers are required to offer emergency paid sick leave to employees that meet one of six criteria for absences relating to COVID-19.

  • They are subject to a federal, state,or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
  • They are advised by their health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19.
  • They are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • They are caring for an individual subject to a quarantine or isolation order or advised self-quarantine.
  • They are caring for a son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed or if their caregiver is unavailable due to COVID-19.
  • They are experiencing another substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services

Under EPSLA, employees receive two weeks of paid sick leave and continued health insurance. Full-time employees may take up to 80 hours, and part-time employees can take up to the number of hours based on their average hours worked in a two-week period.

One thing to note about EFMLEA, it is a new reason for eligible leave, but it isn’t an extension. In other words, if an employee has already taken 12 weeks of FMLA leave during the applicable calendar year, that employee would not be entitled to additional time under EFMLEA during that timeframe. Employees are only eligible for EFMLEA leave for a combined total of up to 12 weeks or the maximum amount of leave available under FMLA.

As mentioned earlier, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is effective from April 1, 2020, until December 31, 2020. Any employees paid sick leave or family leaves taken before April 1st for reasons related to COVID-19 would not qualify for the FFCRA paid leave benefits. Employers should process the leave under different company leave policies such as accrued time off. If FMLA leave were taken before April 1st, the remaining leave under the EFMLEA would be reduced.

Because of their nature, health care and emergency response organizations may be excluded from paid sick leave and extended family leaves. In such instances, employers should refer to the Department of Labor for clarity on the eligibility of these employees.

The good news for employers is that eligible businesses will receive refundable tax credits for emergency paid sick leave and EFMLEA, paid out each quarter. Credits will be applied against an employer’s already-owed social security taxes.

Depending on the circumstances, regulations for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act can be confusing for some employers. I am here to help you make sense of all the regulations surrounding COVID-19. If you are an employer and unsure of any detail in the FFCRA, contact me. We’ll get your questions answered and guide you in the right direction to protect you and your business.

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