The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) is expected to go in to effect within the next 15 days and many implications for small businesses and employees. The new law includes the following changes:
- Free Coronavirus testing
- Paid sick leave
- Family leave for caregivers
- Food assistance for those in need
- Enhanced unemployment insurance
- Increased Medicaid funding for states
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
The new change to emergency paid sick leave applies to businesses with 500 or fewer employees. Under the bill, employees are eligible for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave if they are unable to work in the office or at home for the following reasons:
- An employee is quarantined, either by the government or a health care provider.
- An employee is experiencing symptoms of the Coronavirus and is seeking a diagnosis.
- An employee is caring for someone under quarantine for Coronavirus.
- An employee is caring for children because schools or childcare have closed.
- An employee is experiencing conditions similar to the symptoms of the Coronavirus.
Employees are eligible for paid leave no matter how long someone has been employed. This also includes part-time workers based on the number of hours worked over a two-week period. Employers will need to work with employees to ensure paid leave is taken correctly and as needed.
Expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act
The revised changes cover employees who have been employed for 30 days or more and are unable to work, including at the office or working from home. The purpose of taking leave is for individuals taking care of a close family member, including a child under 18 because of school or a place of care being closed.
For employees who take a leave of absence, they are eligible for 12 weeks of leave. The first ten days of leave would be unpaid although employees can use any accrued paid time off, sick time or emergency sick leave during the waiting period. After day 10 employers must pay an employee two-thirds of their regular pay for up to 12 weeks. Pay has been capped at $200 a day or $10,000 in total.
Exemption for Businesses with 50 or Less Employees
Employers with 50 or fewer employees are able to apply for an exemption from providing paid family and medical leave and paid sick leave if it “would jeopardize the viability of the business.” Currently covered employers that are required to offer emergency FMLA or paid sick leave will be eligible for refundable tax credits.
You can find additional information regarding the FFCRA in a fact sheet provided by the Department of Labor.
As new and additional information becomes available please follow Close HR’s regularly updated blog “What Employers Need to Know About the Coronavirus.”
For current information related to COVID-19, visit the following sites:
- Center for Diseases Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- NC Department of Health and Human Services
For additional updates and HR assistance with business planning and employee communications related to the COVID-19, contact Close HR Connections.