FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT
New Rules in the Time of COVID-19
In the face of an unprecedented pandemic and subsequent, preventative measures—including state-wide quarantines—the impact of the novel Coronavirus is changing the face of employee benefits. While it remains unclear when business operations will be back to normal, relief measures are providing some certainty in a precarious time.
“The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on March 18, 2020. In the coming days and weeks, federal regulatory agencies, including the Department of Labor (DOL) and Health and Human Services (HHS), will provide guidance on how to execute or implement the new requirements,” ThinkHR reported toward the end of March.
The new provisions will be extending emergency, financial relief in the form of bolstered sick leave and FMLA extension.
What We Know for Sure
As of April 1, employees directly affected by COVID-19 will be eligible for up to two weeks of sick leave for themselves (2/3 pay for family care) due to illness, quarantine and school closures, as well as up to 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for school closures (10 days unpaid and then up to 10 weeks at 2/3 pay).
Originally instated for parents of youth under 18 who need to miss work during any sort of medical crisis resulting in school closings, now the FMLA declares employers must pay two thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay for the number of hours they would normally be scheduled to work, capped at $200/day and $10,000 total. There is no pay for the first 10 days.
Eligibility includes anyone who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, though employers may be able to exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders since they’ve continued to work.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Update
Organizations with less than 500 employees will provide employees’ regular pay rate of up to 80 hours for their full-time workers. Part-time employees are entitled coverage that equates to the average number of hours worked during a two-week period.
The Coronavirus cavate is that the rate varies based on an employee’s reason for work absence.
If the coverage is accommodating loss of work due to federal or state quarantine orders in response to COVID-19, if the individual is experiencing symptoms and under advisement by a medical professional to stay home, or has a confirmed case—they are paid their full rate, with a cap of $511 per day and $5,110 total.
If the employee is caring for an infected individual, staying home with their children due to school closings or because their caretaker has Coronavirus, they receive two-thirds of their regular rate—capping the pay at $200 per day, or $2,000 total.
There are payroll tax credits involved in the above, as well as a health plan benefit mandate, lending further relief in this mercurial time. What’s certain is employers and legislators are working to be responsive during this pandemic.