On March 18th, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), to ease the economic burden faced by many businesses and individuals as a result of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The information below is a summary of the provisions included:
- Family and medical leave. The Act includes the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), which requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide both paid and unpaid public health emergency leave to certain employees through December 31, 2020. The emergency leave generally is available when an employee who has been employed for at least 30 days is unable to work or telework due to a need for leave to care for a son or daughter under age 18 because a school or place of care has been closed, or a childcare provider is unavailable, due to an emergency with respect to COVID-19 that is declared by a federal, state, or local authority. The first 10 days of leave may be unpaid and then paid leave is required, calculated based on an amount not less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay and the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work, not to exceed $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate. Certain exemptions and special rules apply.
- Emergency paid sick time. Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), private employers with fewer than 500 employees, and public employers of any size, must provide 80 hours of paid sick time to full-time employees who are unable to work (or telework) for specified virus-related reasons. Part-time employees are entitled to sick time based on their average hours worked over a 2-week period. This amount is immediately available regardless of the employee’s length of employment. The maximum amounts payable vary based on the reason for absence. Employees who are (1) subject to a quarantine or isolation order, (2) advised by a health provider to self-quarantine, or (3) experiencing symptoms and seeking diagnosis, must be compensated at their regular rate, up to a maximum of $511 per day ($5,110 total). Employees caring for an individual described in category (1), (2), or (3), caring for a son or daughter whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable, or experiencing a “substantially similar condition” specified by the government must receive two-thirds of their regular rate, up to a maximum of $200 per day ($2,000 total). Employers cannot require employees to find a replacement worker or use other sick leave before this sick time. Employers may exclude health care providers and emergency responders.
The sick leave mandate takes effect not later than 15 days after March 18, 2020 (the date of the Act’s enactment) and expires December 31, 2020.
Employer tax credits are available to cover all amounts paid under the EFMLEA and the EPSLA, as well as employer health plan expenses allocable to employees taking covered leave. These credits can be recovered immediately by reducing payroll tax deposits by the amount of leave paid out.
Self-employed individuals can also receive a credit for as many as 50 days multiplied by the lesser of $200 or 67% of their average self-employment income paid under the EMFLEA.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.