On March 18, 2020, Congress passed and the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Among other things, there are two provisions providing paid leave to employees forced to miss work because of the COVID-19 outbreak: the Emergency Family Medical Leave Act, and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.
These new laws go into effect into effect on April 2, 2020, and will remain in place until the end of the year.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
Expanded Coverage and Eligibility – This Act expands the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Previously, the FMLA covered only employers with 50 or more employees. The new Act covers all employers with fewer than 500 employees. In addition, it lowers an employee’s eligibility to those who have worked for the employer for at least 30 days prior to the designated leave. As a result, employers not previously subject to the FMLA may be required to provide job-protected leave to employees for a public-health emergency.
Although not yet clear as to the qualifications, the Act allows the Secretary of Labor to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the required leave would jeopardize the viability of their business.
Reasons for Emergency Leave – A qualifying employee who is unable to work or telework can now can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for the employee’s child (under 18 years of age) if the child’s school or place of care is closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public-health emergency.
Paid Leave – Under the Act, the first 10 days of Emergency FMLA may be unpaid. During this 10-day period, an employee may elect to substitute any accrued paid leave (like vacation or sick leave) to cover some or all of the 10-day unpaid period.
Job Restoration – Employers with 25 or more employees will have the same obligation as under traditional FMLA to return any employee who has taken Emergency FMLA to the same or equivalent position upon the return to work. However, employers with fewer than 25 employees are generally excluded from this requirement if the employee’s position no longer exists following the Emergency FMLA leave due to an economic downtown or other circumstances caused by a public health emergency during the period of Emergency FMLA. This exclusion is subject to the employer making reasonable attempts to return the employee to an equivalent position and requires an employer to make efforts to return the employee to work for up to a year following the employee’s leave.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
Reasons for Paid Sick Leave – This new Act allows an eligible employee to take paid sick leave because the employee is:
Eligibility – Employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide full-time employees (regardless of the employee’s duration of employment prior to leave) with 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate (or two-thirds the employee’s regular rate to care for qualifying reasons 4, 5, or 6 listed above).
These new federal statutes are intended to help workers affected by COVID-19. In doing so, however, they will have large impacts on business owners. Contact us today so we can discuss with you how these changes will affect your business.