COVID-19 and Employer-Provided Paid Leave

As the country begins to slowly open back up the economy, several companies and small businesses will soon begin to resume operations. However, until a safe and effective vaccine becomes widely distributable, businesses will have to implement new practices and procedures. These new procedures are what many are referring to as the “new normal.” As strict quarantine, stay-at-home orders begin to be lifted over the next few weeks, employees and employers must recognize that confronting COVID-19 in the workplace will become more and more likely. Therefore, small business owners should make sure that they understand the new employer paid leave requirements that are currently in effect until December 31, 2020.

On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor explained how both employers and employees will benefit from the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, which are both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA attempts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while also providing economic incentives to the workplace.

Covered Employers

The FFCRA applies to certain public employers, as well as private employers with fewer than 500 employees. For small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, certain provisions regarding paid leave for school closings or childcare unavailability may not be applicable.

Paid Leave Requirements

Subject to certain exemptions, the FFCRA generally provides paid sick leave to all employees. More specifically, employers are required to give employees two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave if the employee is unable to work because (1) the federal or state government, or their local health care provider told them to quarantine; and/or (2) they are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis.

In addition, the FFCRA provides two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay if the employee is unable to work because (1) of the need to care for another individual who is subject to quarantine, or (2) they need to care for a child whose school or child-care provider is closed because of COVID-19. Subject to certain exemptions, if you are a covered employer and have an employee who has been employed for at least 30 days, then the employer must provide up to an additional 10 weeks of “paid expanded family medical leave” at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay.

You can see the full list of qualifying reasons for paid leave by visiting the official website of the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

Employer Tax Credits

Employers who grant their employees paid sick leave pursuant to the FFCRA will qualify for dollar-for-dollar reimbursements through tax credits. The FFCRA has not only allowed employers to receive a monetary incentive, but it has also incentivized employers to create a healthy and safe workspace for themselves and for their employees. It will be important for employers to take the time to talk with their employees about how the new paid leave requirements might apply to them.