The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), federal legislation President Trump signed on March 18, 2020, providing paid sick leave (PSL) and emergency family and medical leave for qualifying reasons related to COVID-19 (also known as the coronavirus), took effect on April 1. Employers should remember a few things about this new law.
To whom does it apply?
The FFCRA applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees.
Which employees are eligible for leave?
Generally, all employees are eligible for paid sick leave under the FFCRA as of April 1, 2020. The new leave is available immediately, regardless of how long the individual has been employed — meaning it does not have to be accrued.
The eligibility for emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is different. Employees must be employed for at least 30 calendar days to be eligible for emergency FMLA.
Health care providers and emergency responders may be excluded from both PSL and emergency FMLA.
How much paid leave do employees get?
Paid Sick Leave: Under the PSL requirements, full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid leave while part-time employees are entitled to two weeks of paid leave based on their normal schedule. This is a new leave entitlement, provided in addition to any other paid leave available to employees. Employees may take PSL for the following qualifying reasons:
• Subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
• Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
• Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
• Caring for an individual who is subject to a government quarantine or a self-quarantine advised by a health care provider (reasons 1 and 2 above);
• Caring for their child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions; or
• Experiencing any other “substantially similar condition” specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Employees must be paid PSL at their regular rate for reasons No. 1 through No. 3 above, except that pay cannot exceed $511 per day and $5,110 total. Employers can pay employees two-thirds their regular rate for reasons No. 4 through No. 6 above, except that pay cannot exceed $200 per day and $2,000 total in those circumstances.
Family and Medical Leave: Under the new emergency FMLA requirements, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave. The first 10 days may be unpaid (employees can use new PSL during this time), and the remaining time is to be paid at a rate of no less than two-thirds of their regular rate of pay for the hours normally scheduled. Paid leave under emergency FMLA is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in total per individual.
Employees may take emergency FMLA leave for only one reason, to care for their child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.
Are small businesses exempt?
The FFCRA contains a small business exemption for employers with fewer than 50 employees. The exemption for both PSL and emergency FMLA, however, is limited to the qualifying reason of caring for a child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions. Thus, small businesses are not exempt from paying for PSL for the other five qualifying reasons listed above. Small businesses can claim the exemption only if paying for such leave would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern.
Are employers required to post a notice?
Yes, employers are required to post notice of the law’s requirements in conspicuous places. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) created a poster (also available in Spanish) for employers to use. The DOL also stated that employers could send the notice to remote employees by mail, email or posting on an employee information internal or external website.
The DOL has been busy trying to answer many of the most common questions about the new law in greater detail. Employers can read more about the new law on the department’s website, dol.gov, and can expect additional updates and regulations in the future.
Other COVID-19 Resources
In Episode 57 of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber Executive Vice President and General Counsel Erika Frank and employment law expert James Ward discuss key points and guidelines issued by the DOL on the FFCRA, which took effect on April 1. Listen for free at calchamber.com/theworkplace!
Visit the CalChamber (COVID-19) webpage for more COVID-19-related federal, state and local resources, including CalChamber coverage.