The coronavirus pandemic has affected countless families across the United States and millions of people on a global scale and as more people suffer the repercussions of the illness, new laws have been put in place to accommodate employees. On March 18, 2020, the Trump Administration announced that they have signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) into law.
Under this new law, certain employers are required to offer their workers paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave for qualifying reasons relating to COVID-19. The FFCRA remains in effect until December 31, 2020 and is administered and enforced by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD).
One of the most important aspects to remember about the FFCRA is that the paid leave provisions only apply to businesses that have fewer than 500 employees. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees may apply to the Secretary of Labor for an exemption if providing paid leave benefits to workers would potentially “jeopardize the viability” of their business.
How the FFCRA Improves Employee Benefits
Under the FFCRA, covered employers are required to provide all employees with the following benefits:
- Two weeks of paid sick leave (maximum of 80 hours). This pay should be paid at the worker’s regular pay rate if an employee is not able to return to work due to being in quarantine via a local, state or federal order, or by the guidance of a health care provider. Paid sick leave may also be provided if a worker is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and are being tested for the virus.
- Two weeks of paid sick leave (maximum of 80 hours). This pay should be paid at two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay rate when an employee is not able to return to work because of a need to provide care to a person subject to quarantine via a local, state or federal order, or by the guidance of a health care provider. In addition, paid sick leave may be given to an employee who needs to care for a child under 18 years old due to a school or daycare provider closure relating to COVID-19.
Adds Upon Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Established in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) authorizes eligible workers to receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical and family reasons. Some of these reasons include to deal with a serious health condition of the employee or an immediate family member, for the placement of a child by foster care or adoption, for the birth of an employee’s child, to allow for bonding between a parent and newborn baby or recently placed employee or for other special circumstances related to a direct family member that has been placed on active duty.
The FFCRA has expanded employee rights under the FMLA. Under FMLA, only employers who have had at least 50 employees for a minimum of 20 weeks in the current or previous year are required to comply with the FMLA. Under the FFCRA, protected leave is now a requirement among nearly all employers.
Enhanced Protected Leave
Under the FFCRA, employees are entitled to receive enhanced protected leave to combat the health issues created by the coronavirus pandemic. First, employers are required to offer employees unpaid leave (or paid vacation or accrued paid leave for 10 days). Following this, an employee is entitled to paid leave and compensated at two-thirds of their regular pay rate; however, paid leave cannot exceed a total of $200 per day or a total of $10,000 for the full two weeks.
Decreased Time Requirement
Prior to the introduction of the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), an employer had to have worked for an employer for at least 1 year before asking for FMLA leave. Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, employees are now eligible for paid leave after being employed for only 30 calendar days. This decreased time requirement allows employees who may have recently started working for a business to also receive certain employee benefits relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you require EFMLEA benefits, it is important to understand that these benefits do not combine with regular FMLA leave benefits. This means that an eligible employee is only able to get up to 12 weeks total of protected family and medical leave. In addition, EFMLEA leave can only be taken for COVID-19 related reasons. It does not apply to all employers including employers in certain industries that are exempt from paid leave requirements.
Better Peace of Mind
As of May 8, 2020, there have been a total of 1,248,040 cases of coronavirus in the United States impacting every state and resulting in more than 75,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. As the virus continues to negatively affect families across the country, employees want to know that they are protected from the financial repercussions of the pandemic. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has provided many employees with peace of mind. Under the FFCRA, employees who have been impacted by COVID-19 now have the chance to recover or care for a loved one without fear that they will lose their jobs.
Work with the Employee Benefits Experts
The FFCRA went into effect in all states on April 1, 2020 and in just a short amount of time has helped countless employees receive the protected leave they need to care for themselves and their families. The FFCRA has also affected other employee benefits such as health coverage. Employees who have elected to receive group health coverage are entitled to continue receiving these benefits during their expanded family and medical leave; however, employees are required to continue making normal contributions to their health coverage costs.
To learn more about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and how it may affect you, reach out to the business benefits professionals at the Business Benefits Group (BBG).