This story was originally published in National Oil and Lube News, March 26, 2020.
On March 18, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law, according to a report from Affinity HR Group. The act is expected to take effect April 2, 2020.
According to the report, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act creates two separate Acts: the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Expansion Act, both of which apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees. The following information comes courtesy of Affinity:
For the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, it will provide two weeks (10 business days) of paid sick leave to full-time and part-time employees in addition to their current existing and banked sick leave, regardless of how long they worked for the company. Full-time employees will be eligible for up to 80 hours of paid sick time, while part-time employees will be eligible based on the average number of hours they have worked over a two-week period during the previous six months. It covers employees who, as a result of this pandemic, are unable to work, either in the workplace or remotely, and the provisions of the act expire December 31, 2020.
Further, employer-provided Emergency Sick Leave pay will be fully reimbursed by the federal government through the end of 2020 through refundable quarterly tax credits to offset Social Security payroll taxes, according to the report. Federally reimbursed paid sick time is capped at $5,110 plus employer-paid or supported health insurance costs per employee (for those being tested, treated or diagnosed with COVID-19 or those with symptoms or exposure to COVID-19), or $2,200 plus health insurance costs per employee (for those caring for children out of school or tending to family members affected by coronavirus).
Employers with fewer than 50 employees may apply for hardship waivers and may apply to have funds advanced to them.
For the Emergency Family and Medical Expansion Act, it amends the existing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide job- and benefit-protection for absences related to COVID-19 pandemic. This act will provide those who qualify with 12 weeks of partial-paid leave to care for minor children if school or child care are closed. The provisions of this act apply only to parents that are unable to work due the need to care for a child out of school or daycare.
This emergency paid sick leave will be fully reimbursed by the federal government through the end of 2020 through refundable quarterly tax credits to offset Social Security payroll taxes, according to the report. Federally reimbursed emergency leave is capped at ($10,000 per covered employee) plus expenses paid or incurred to provide or maintain a group health plan during the paid sick time.
Employers with 25 or more employees must restore employees to same or equivalent position without loss of benefits, and employers with fewer than 25 employees do not need to restore to the equivalent position if all of the following apply:
- The position held by the employee no longer exists due to economic conditions or changes impacting the employer’s operations and are related to the public health emergency.
- The employer makes a reasonable effort to restore the employee to the equivalent position.
- If the employer is unable to restore the employee to the equivalent position, the employer makes a reasonable efforts to reach out to the employee if an equivalent position becomes available within one year of when the public health emergency concludes or 12 weeks after the employee’s leave commences, whichever is earlier.
Affinity HR Group recommends in the report that business owners evaluate their responsibilities under new legislation based on their size and industry. As soon as possible, Affinity recommends employers to provide employees with the proper notice of eligibility or ineligibility, and let employees know their coverage options as soon as possible. As soon as they realize them, business owners should apply for waivers and/or credits if necessary. Further, Affinity says to communicate regularly with employees about their situation as well as the company’s situation given the challenging environment and changing circumstances.
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