By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
Despite local economies beginning to reopen, we’re far from the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are thousands of new confirmed cases each day, and it’s possible the numbers will spike as people begin to go back to work.
It’s a difficult predicament for employers, who are stuck between caring about employee safety and the need to resume operations or face bankruptcy. Thankfully, there are several government programs meant to protect employers and their workers, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
This piece of legislation is one that has already been important and will continue to be as employees make the transition back to work. Here are four things every employer should know about the FFCRA and how it works.
1. What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?
The FFCRA is a provision passed by the federal government to extend paid sick leave for employees whose lives have been directly impacted by coronavirus. According to the U.S. Department of Labor:
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.
To understand the FFRCA, it’s important to define a few significant parts of the definition.
First, “certain employers” refers to both public and private sector companies with 500 employees or fewer. It does not include government employees, who are otherwise covered under Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Second, “employees” refers to all employees. There is no distinction made between full- and part-time workers; however, hourly status does affect the duration of leave and the rate of pay.
Finally, there are two types of extended leave employees can take advantage of: “paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave (FMLA).” There’s a difference between these that we’ll talk about below.
2. How much paid leave are employees eligible for?
Employee paid-leave rights under the FFCRA span both sick leave and FMLA extensions. The legislation dictates that employees are eligible for:
- 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate due to state-, federal-, or medical-mandated quarantine, or a positive or pending COVID-19 diagnosis.
- 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate due to care obligations caused by an immediate family member with COVID-19 or the closure of a school or daycare center that renders them without adequate child care.
- Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid FMLA at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate due to the closure of a school or daycare center that renders them without adequate child care. To qualify, employees must have 30 days of tenure in the calendar year.
Under the FFCRA, employees should provide their employer with as much notice as possible before taking leave. Employers should request frequent check-ins and follow-up notices to confirm the reasons for taking FFCRA leave.
3. How do employees qualify for FFCRA leave?
There are stringent paid leave requirements for employees to comply with FFCRA. First and foremost, they must be unable to work and must not have the option to telecommute. Employees in good health who have the option to work from home do not qualify for FFCRA leave.
To be “unable to work,” employees must meet one of the criteria specified under FFCRA guidelines. The six qualifications include:
- Subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
- Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
- Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and/or seeking a medical diagnosis
- Caring for an individual subject to (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2)
- Caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or unavailable
- Experiencing any other substantial illness that prevents them from working
Employees must prove that they qualify for any of the above reasons; however, employers should take most notices in good faith, as it may be difficult for employees to provide immediate proof due to the circumstances of the pandemic.
4. How much does FFCRA leave pay?
Employees who qualify for FFCRA leave are subject to pay based on their usual rate. This can mean different payouts for different employees across the company. The Department of Labor has issued general guidance, as follows:
- For reasons (1-3) above, employees are entitled to their full regular pay or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher. This occurs over a two-week period, up to $511 per day or $5,110 in the aggregate.
- For reasons (4 or 6) above, employees are entitled to two-thirds of their pay or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher. This occurs over a two-week period, up to $200 per day or $2,000 in the aggregate.
- For reason (5) above, employees are entitled to two-thirds of their pay or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher. This occurs over a 12-week period, up to $200 per day or $12,000 in the aggregate.
The FFCRA is in effect until Dec. 31, 2020, which means employers will likely find themselves facing FFCRA leave requests in the back half of the year—especially if there’s a spike in coronavirus cases as economies open up. Above are the most important factors to know.
Keep reading: COVID-19 Workplace Management Resources