Provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired on 12/31/20. The recently passed (signed 12/27/20) Coronavirus Relief bill gives employers the option to continue following the provisions of the FFCRA.
The FFCRA provided up to 80 hours of paid sick and family leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), along with up to 10 weeks of partially paid family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) to eligible employees who were unable to work due to certain COVID-19-related reasons. For private employers, the requirement to provide these paid FFCRA leaves was offset by dollar-for-dollar tax credits for wages paid to employees taking paid leave.
The recently passed Coronavirus Relief bill allows private employers the opportunity to continue to claim dollar-for-dollar tax credits on wages paid to employees taking leave between January 1 and March 31, 2021, consistent with the existing FFCRA framework. In order to continue to be eligible for these tax credits, an employer must continue to provide FFCRA paid leave (EPSL and/or EFML) to its affected employees. Employers who choose to voluntarily provide leave in 2021 will need to be diligent when determining how much of an employee’s leave qualifies for the tax credit as it will depend on whether or not the employee took any EPSL leave in 2020 and/or took any EFMLA leave during the 12-month period the employer uses for federal Family and Medical Leave (FMLA).
When making the decision whether or not to continue offering paid leave in 2021 consistent with the FFCRA, employers should keep in mind that many states and localities have passed their own paid leave laws related to the pandemic, so there may still be an obligation to provide paid leave related to COVID-19. In addition, each employer will have a unique set of concerns. On the one hand, continuance of the FFCRA is not required by law and, as such, there is a good argument to no longer offer it to employees. On the other hand, offering FFCRA has been woven into the COVID-19 world and, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, removing this benefit may create employee morale issues. For employers not currently subject to the federal FMLA, providing FMLA-like job protections for these COVID-19-related conditions could be beneficial. For all employers, the FFCRA essentially gives employees up to 10 days of additional sick time for the year. Employers also should clearly communicate their decision regarding the continued provision of FFCRA-qualifying leave to their workforce so employees understand what leave will be available to them in 2021.
As with many COVID-19-related issues, there is no track record to review. Without any precedent, you cannot see what other employers have done. The decision is yours and you should do what is best for your company and for your employees.
If you have questions, please contact Answer Human Assets at email@example.com.