Believe it or not, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a staggering 33 million Americans lacked even a single day of paid time off to care for themselves or a sick family member. Most of us are familiar with the term FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) or we’ve heard of it before at some point in our life. When the pandemic hit, our government had to create a whole new kind of leave in addition to FMLA in order to help cover the gap for when individuals get COVID-19 or come in contact with someone who had COVID-19 and need to quarantine. This new leave is called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). It allows for employees to have paid sick leave or expanded family or medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19. It is effective from April 1, 2020 until December 31, 2020.
Below are some quick, helpful facts about the new, temporary act:
- This new, temporary leave only applies to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. A business with fewer than 50 employees may be able to apply to be exempt from offering this kind of leave if they feel it may jeopardize the viability of the business. Healthcare workers and emergency responders are not eligible for this benefit. Employers who offer this new temporary leave will qualify for tax credits dollar for dollar against the employers’ federal tax obligations to offset the cost of wages paid out.
- Since the FFCRA was passed, the DOL added in another reason an employee could qualify for leave under the temporary act. This new provision now includes caring for a minor child (under 18 years of age) whose school or place of care is closed and/or only offering remote learning. This new provision within the FFCRA is called EFMLEA (Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act)
- The EFMLEA provides up to 12 work weeks of job protected leave with health insurance in 2020 (between April 1- December 31). The first two weeks taken are unpaid, and any additional time is paid at two thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, max of $200 per day, and $10,000 in total.
- Another part of the FFCRA is called ‘emergency paid leave’. This allows an individual who cannot work due to COVID-19, the ability to take up to two weeks off and still get paid. There are many different instances of how an employee can qualify for this emergency paid leave:
- Needs to quarantine
- Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and awaiting the diagnosis
- Caring for a family member who is quarantining or waiting for a diagnosis
- Caring for a child or family member due to a school or facility closure caused by the pandemic
- If you already have taken 12 weeks of leave this year, you are not eligible for any additional time. Family Leave coverage is still capped at 12 weeks.
To summarize, this new law helps employers keep their employees on their payrolls while offering the employee assistance and peace of mind to stay safe and keep everyone else safe during this public health crisis.
Employers, if you have any questions about the FFCRA or other employee benefits topics, Univest Insurance is here to help. Contact us at 800-220-3077 or email@example.com to get a conversation started. In addition, below are several good websites that offer additional guidance for business owners:
- Dept. of Labor’s FFCRA-related frequently asked questions and answers
- How the Dept. of Labor is enforcing the FFCRA
- Dept. of Labor’s draft instructions on how to access and administer payroll tax credits
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