The Families First Coronavirus Response Act – by John L. Senft, Esq.
Businesses and Employers,
I wanted to send everyone a quick update to advise that President Trump has signed a Coronavirus relief package law (the Families First Coronavirus Response Act) which includes provisions for paid emergency leave and emergency Family Medical Leave.
PAID EMERGENCY LEAVE
The law requires employers who employ fewer than 500 employees and governments to provide up to two weeks of paid sick time to employees who are unable to work (including work from home) because:
- The employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine.
- The employee is caring for a son or daughter because the child’s school or place of care has been closed or the child’s childcare is unavailable due to COVID 19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of the HHS in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
Employers of health care providers or emergency responders may elect not to provide this leave to those employees.
Paid sick time must be made available to all employees. Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave, while paid sick leave for part-timers is equal to the average number of hours the employee works over a two-week period.
If time off is taken for self-care, employees must be generally be compensated at their regular rate of pay, subject to a cap of $511 per day (or $5,110 total). If time off is taken to care for a sick family member or a child who is not in school, employees must be compensated at two-thirds of their regular rate, subject to a cap of $200 per day (or $2,000 total).
The Department of Labor is preparing a Notice which employers will be required to post once available.
EMERGENCY FMLA LEAVE
The new law also expands the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide for Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) if an employee is unable to work (or work from home) in order to care for the employee’s minor child because the child’s school or daycare has been closed. All employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide this leave to any individual who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days. Employers of health care providers or emergency responders may exempt those employees from coverage.
The first 10 days of PHEL may be unpaid, but an employee may elect (and an employer may require an employee) to substitute any accrued vacation, personal leave, or medical or sick leave for unpaid leave. For many employees, that leave period will be paid as a result of the Emergency Paid Sick Time provisions discussed above. After 10 days, employers shall provide partial paid leave for each additional day of leave at an amount that is not less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be scheduled to work. Paid PHEL may not exceed $200 per day or $10,000 total.
The FMLA’s job restoration requirements will apply to companies with 25 or more employees. For business which employ fewer than 25 employees, job restoration is not required if the position held by the employee does not exist due to economic conditions or other changes in operating conditions that affect employment and the employer makes reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position. If no equivalent positions are available at the time the employee tries to return from leave, the employer must attempt to contact the employee if an equivalent position becomes available in the next year.
Both the Paid Leave and PHEL provisions make payroll tax credits available in an amount corresponding to the payments made by an employer.
The new law is to become effective no later than 15 days from its enactment. The Paid Leave provision is set to expire on December 31, 2020.
Please feel free to get in touch with me if you would like to discuss this new law.
John L. Senft, Esquire