COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick & FMLA: Employer Questions Answered

By March 20, 2020Coronavirus

President Trump signed H.R.6201 Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) on March 18, 2020, to provide some much-needed financial aid to employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19. Here are the details.

Is there a poster I’m supposed to hang at my workplace about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?

Yes! All employers covered by the FFCRA must post this required notice in a conspicuous place and/or share it via email or intranet to inform employees of this Act. It must be hung and/or shared by April 1, 2020, and remain in a conspicuous place through the end of 2020.

What is entailed in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

Eligible employees can receive up to 12 paid weeks of leave:

  • The first 2 weeks (10 days) of paid leave is Emergency Paid Sick Leave with a capped dollar amount;
  • The subsequent 10 weeks of paid leave is Emergency Family Medical Leave for any necessary time to care for a child if the child’s school is closed or childcare provider is unavailable due to the public health emergency, with a capped dollar amount.
Who is eligible for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

Anyone who works for a company with 1-499 employees may be eligible for this emergency aid if they have no telework option.

  • By definition for this Act, one part-time employee is considered as “one” employee rather than a fraction of a full-time employee. For example, a company of 400 full-time employees and 110 part-time employees has 510 total employees and is therefore ineligible for this Act.
How much money can employees expect to receive when they file for both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family Medical Leave?

Regular full-time employees who are using Emergency Paid Sick Leave for their own condition will make their regular wages for up to 10 days of Emergency Paid Sick Leave, up to a maximum amount of $511 per day and $5,110 in aggregate. Employees caring for someone else will be capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in aggregate.

Part-time employees will make the equivalent of the average number of hours over the course of two weeks. Part-time employees who work variable hours will be determined based on a calculation.

While paid Emergency Family Medical Leave does not kick in until after the first 10 days of being on leave, Paid Sick Leave provides a buffer for those first two weeks. Emergency Family Medical Leave will then be paid at 2/3 of an employee’s regular rate of pay, capping at $200 a day, with an aggregate total of $10,000.

Are these tax credits available to self-employed workers?

Yes! Independent Contractors and gig workers can submit for tax credits on their income taxes.

How long must employees have been employed to be eligible for this emergency leave aid?

There is no minimum amount of time an employee must have been working for the employer to be eligible for the emergency paid sick leave.

To be eligible for the emergency family medical leave, employees must have been employed for at least 30 days.

Can employees choose to take emergency sick leave and family medical leave if they’ve been given the option to work remotely?

No! Employees may only take this leave if they are unable to telework for their employer. Any employees with the option to work remotely will be deemed ineligible for both emergency paid sick and emergency family medical leave.

When will this emergency leave act be in effect?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act goes into effect on April 1, 2020. It will remain in place until the end of 2020 and will not carry over.

Does this emergency leave apply to employees who have been quarantined prior to April 1?

It does not appear so, as the Secretary of Labor did not amend the Act to include this prior to its enactment.

Under what conditions may an employee take emergency paid leave under this Act?

Emergency sick leave may be eligible for employees who are unable to work due to being quarantined (with or without symptoms) or for employees who must care for someone under quarantine. The subsequent family medical is available to employees who must care for a child under the age of 18 due to school or daycare closing, per the public health emergency.

Are any companies exempt from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

This Act is to provide ongoing wages to employees to keep them afloat during the outbreak of the Coronavirus and will require some cash flow, as employers will pay employees and then be reimbursed via tax credits. Companies with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the provision if paying ongoing wages will jeopardize the viability of their business.

Healthcare providers and emergency responders may also elect to exclude their employees from application of this emergency leave.

How will my company get reimbursed for these emergency wages I’m paying my employees?

Your company will pay the employee their appropriate wages, per the leave, and will then apply for a tax credit when submitting payroll taxes. The credit will be applied against the employer portion of Social Security taxes. Qualified leave will be reimbursed 100%.

Tax credits do not have to submitted only towards the employee(s) taking leave; credits can be attributed towards payroll taxes paid for all employees.

Can my employer replace me while I’m out on emergency leave?

No, this leave is job-protected for companies with 25 or more employees. However, companies with fewer than 25 employees do not have to hold your position if it no longer exists due to the public health crisis during the period of leave.

How do employees request emergency leave?

They must provide their employer with notice of leave as is practicable.

Do employees have to exhaust their existing paid leave to apply for this emergency leave?

No! There is no requirement to exhaust other forms of leave before taking emergency paid sick and/or emergency family medical leave.

Is this leave available to employees that have already been laid off?

While this leave may not apply where layoffs have already occurred, there may be other implications of layoffs to consider. Employers should try to navigate the best course of action for each employee, where possible.

For any additional questions regarding emergency paid sick leave and emergency family medical leave, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

Coronavirus Paid Leave Act

Are your employees unable to work due to Coronavirus? They may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

Download this FMLA application and email it to FMLA@stratus.hr to apply.

COVID-19 Scenarios and Benefits Available Table
Sher Shields, MBA

Author Sher Shields, MBA

With an MBA and an HR background, Sher helps with all sorts of marketing odds and ends such as articles, newsletters, emails, blogs, website content, ads, and more. When not juggling her four young children, Sher enjoys volleyball, basketball, racquetball, or anything else with "ball" at the end.

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