A new relief package for those affected by COVID-19 also includes provisions that will impact employers.
President Donald Trump signed Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law March 18 following passage in the U.S. House and Senate.
The law takes effect April 1.
Syndeo, an outsourced human resources provider, is providing a summary of the major provisions of the bill with help from our legal partners at FisherBroyles LLP.
Job-protected leave under Family and Medical Leave Act
The bill modifies requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act by requiring employers pay employees for 10 of the 12 weeks of absence at a rate of no less than two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay.
This applies to companies with fewer than 500 workers. Employees can use other forms of paid time off to offset the two weeks of FMLA leave that are unpaid.
Employees are eligible for paid leave once they have worked for a company for 30 days.
Emergency FMLA leave can be taken for employees who are unable to work or telework because they need to care for children under the age of 18 whose school is closed or childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency.
Typically, FLMA requires companies to allow employees return to the same position or an equivalent role when they return to work.
However, the bill includes an exemption to that requirement for businesses with less than 25 employees. The bill requires those employers to make a reasonable effort to restore positions eliminated by the Coronavirus pandemic over a one-year period.
The Secretary of Labor also has the authority to exempt certain businesses with less than 50 employees if the bill would jeopardize the viability of the operation.
The FMLA amendment expires Dec. 31, 2020.
Additional sick leave
The bill also helps employees working for companies with less than 500 employees gain access to additional paid sick leave.
Companies are required to provide full-time employees with up to 80 hours (two weeks) of paid sick leave for reasons associated with the Coronavirus including:
- Self-isolating because of a Coronavirus diagnosis or order to quarantine due to exposure or demonstrating symptoms.
- To obtain a medical diagnosis or care for Coronavirus.
- To care for a family member who is self-isolating.
- To care for a child or children whose school or care provider has closed due to the Coronavirus.
Sick leave must be paid at an employee’s regular pay rate unless the leave is being used to care for a family member or child. Under those circumstances, the employee will receive two-thirds of his or her normal pay rate.
The additional sick leave is available for immediate use regardless of a person’s length of employment. Part-time part employees will be eligible for paid sick time that is equal to the average number of hours they work over a two-week period.
Employers cannot require their employees to use other paid leave before being able to use the paid leave outlined in the bill.
Like the FMLA components, this aspect of the bill also expires on Dec. 31, 2020.
While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act places additional requirements on employers, it also provides a series of refundable tax credits.
- A credit equal to 100 percent of qualified family leave wages an employer is required to pay quarterly through the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.
- A credit equal to 100 percent of qualified sick leave wages an employer is required to pay quarterly through the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.
Emergency unemployment insurance
The bill will provide a combined $1 billion in grants to states for emergency unemployment insurance. The first half of which will be transferred within 60 days of the March 18 enactment of the bill.
The remainder will be earmarked for states where the number of unemployment compensation claims have increased by 10 percent or more over the same quarter in 2019.
To be eligible for that portion, states also must remove barriers to obtaining unemployment coverage, such as waiving work search requirements and waiting periods.
About us: As the Heartland’s leading employer services company, Syndeo partners with local business owners to help them minimize risk, improve efficiency and maximize profitability allowing them the freedom to focus on growth and fulfilling their mission. Syndeo fulfills its mission by taking on all of the HR responsibilities for our clients’ workforce, including employee relations, benefits, risk management and payroll.
~Josh Heck, Marketing Manager, Syndeo