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Families First Coronavirus Response Act

On March 18, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) into law to address the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on Americans. Small and midsize employers are required to provide temporary paid family and sick leave to employees directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Your Human Resources team at PPR is ready to help provide support and guidance during these difficult times and have provided a brief summary of some of these changes. Below is a list of the questions answered in this blog:

  • What are the New Requirements for Expanded Family and Medical Leave?

  • What are the Requirements for Paid Sick Leave?

  • Are Health Plans Required to Cover Testing For COVID-19?

  • How is Unemployment Affected?

  • If I Have Employees in Dallas (Or That Reside in Dallas and Work Remotely), Do I Need to Worry About Compliance with the Dallas Paid Sick Law?

  • Who Can I Contact for Assistance?

What are the New Requirements for Expanded Family and Medical Leave? Emergency Leave (the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees and requires that these employers provide 12 weeks of leave for a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” The EFMLEA governs smaller employers with fewer than 50 employees unless the Department of Labor decides to exempt such an employer on the grounds that imposition of the EFMLEA’s requirements would jeopardize the employer’s ability to continue operating. Eligibility requirements: Employees who have worked for employer at least 30 days. Qualifying event:

  1. Employee is unable to work (or telework) and needs leave to care for a son or daughter under the age of 18 whose school or place of care has closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable, because of an emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a federal, state or local authority.

Pay During Leave:

  1. The first 10 days of leave are unpaid unless the employee chooses, but cannot be required, to use accrued vacation days or other available paid leave (including Paid Sick Leave provided under EPSLA).

  2. For subsequent days of leave, eligible employees will receive a benefit from employer equal to at least two-thirds of their normal pay rate but capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate, per employee.

  3. Paid leave must continue until the qualifying condition no longer exists, or after twelve weeks of leave have been taken.

What are the Requirements for Paid Sick Leave? Paid Sick Leave (Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)) applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide 80 hours of temporary paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work for any of the following reasons related to COVID-19:

1. the employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order;

  • leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate, but capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate

2. a health care provider has advised the employee to self-quarantine;

  • leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate, but capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate

3. the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;

  • leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate, but capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate

4. the employee is caring for someone who has been advised or ordered to quarantine;

  • leave is paid at 2/3’s the employee’s regular rate, but capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate

5. the employee is caring for a son or daughter whose school or place of care has closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 precautions; or

  • leave is paid at 2/3’s the employee’s regular rate, but capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate

6. the employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

  • leave is paid at 2/3’s the employee’s regular rate, but capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate

Paid Leave Benefit:

  1. Full-time employees are to receive 80 hours of sick leave, and part-time workers are granted leave equivalent to their average hours worked in a two-week period.

  2. Sick leave is available for immediate use regardless of the employee’s tenure at the employer. Employers may not require employees to use other forms of paid leave before using paid sick leave under the EPSLA.  Paid Sick Leave will not carry over from year to year.

  3. This new requirement will become effective on April 2 and remain in effect until December 31, 2020.

Exceptions: Under the EPSLA, the Department of Labor has the authority to issue regulations to exempt small businesses from paying sick time to an employee who is caring for a son or daughter whose school or place of care has closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 precautions if the imposition of such a requirement would jeopardize the employer’s ability to continue operating. The Department of Labor may also issue regulations, among other things, to ensure consistency between the EFMLEA and EPSLA and the provisions of the FFCRA that address coverage of testing for COVID-19. The EPSLA also requires employers to post notices of the requirements of the statute in conspicuous places on the employer’s premises

How Will Employers Pay for the Paid Sick and Expanded Family and Medical Leave? The Act provides a series of refundable tax credits for employers who are required to provide the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave described above. These tax credits are allowed against the employer portion of Social Security taxes. While this limits the application of the tax credit, employers will be reimbursed if their costs for qualified sick leave or qualified family leave wages exceed the taxes they would owe. For more information about these credits and other relief, visit Coronavirus Tax Relief on IRS.gov.

Are Health Plans Required to Cover Testing For COVID-19? The new emergency laws now also require private health care plans (including self-insured plans) to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing and related services for employees and their covered dependents without requiring any cost-sharing with the employee, like deductibles, copayments or coinsurance.  The plans also cannot require prior authorization or similar medical management as a precondition of COVID-19 testing or related services.

How is Unemployment Affected? The Act provides $1 billion in 2020 for emergency grants to states for activities related to unemployment insurance benefit processing and payment. Employers should keep in mind the following points with regard to this section of the FFCRA:

  • The UI benefit is for job losses (or, in some cases, reduced hours) related to COVID-19 economic downturn. It is not paid leave.

  • Employers will be required to notify laid-off workers about potential UI eligibility. The U.S. Department of Labor will prepare a notice with model language.

  • States with at least a 10 percent increase in unemployment will be eligible for additional funding to assist with costs related to the unemployment spike, as long as they take steps to ease unemployment eligibility requirements during the COVID-19 outbreak. Such steps may include waiving waiting periods and increasing employer UI taxes for those employers with high layoff rates.

The Texas Workforce Commission provides a helpful FAQ regarding UI benefits at https://twc.texas.gov/news/covid-19-resources-employers. Please check with your state unemployment compensation agency for more information.

If I Have Employees in Dallas (Or That Reside in Dallas and Work Remotely), Do I Need to Worry About Compliance with the Dallas Paid Sick Law? The Dallas Sick Leave Ordinance is already in place, but adherence to it becomes effective as of this April 1st. Any leave accruals employees are eligible for under this new law that applies to all employees who work within the city limit of Dallas is in addition to any sick leave accrued under the new federal emergency sick leave laws.  Also, please keep in mind that if your office is not in Dallas, but you have employees that work at least 80 hours within the city limits of Dallas (i.e. live in Dallas and work remotely), these employees are eligible for the paid leave benefits under the Dallas law. 

Who Can I Contact for Assistance?  The PPR team is ready to support you.  You may contact your lead consultant or reach out to us at info@pprhr.com.

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