A Closer Look at the FFCRA
Last week, Your Friends that Count reviewed our Frequently Asked Questions related to the federal government’s passing of the CARES Act stimulus legislation. As a follow up to our numerous inquiries from individuals and employers related to the previously approved Families First Coronavirus Response Act, here is a deeper dive into what FFCRA means for our clients.
FFCRA requires certain (most) employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions were signed into law March 18, 2020, and will apply through December 31, 2020.
Generally, the FFCRA provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee's regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; OR
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee's regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified DOL and IRS; AND
- Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee's regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
Are there employer exemptions and credits?
The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or childcare unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
Eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit or childcare credit based on the paid leave calculations. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.
Eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or childcare leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and childcare leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS. The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees. If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and childcare leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS says it will process these requests for refunds in two weeks or less.
Who are the eligible employees?
All employees of covered employers are eligible based on the aforementioned criteria for quarantine, diagnosis, family care and childcare (with alternate benefits). Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19. A full-time employee is eligible for full 80 hours of leave, and a part-time employee is eligible for the number of hours of leave that the employee works on average over a two-week period. For employees caring for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, a full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave (two weeks of paid sick leave followed by up to 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave) at 40 hours a week, and a part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period. Remember, there is an exemption for this requirement if the employer has fewer than 50 employees.
What is the calculation of pay?
- Employees taking leave due to quarantine or doctor’s orders are entitled to pay at either their regular rate or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate (over a 2-week period).
- Employees taking leave to care for someone under quarantine are entitled to pay at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate (over a 2-week period).
- Employees taking leave due to childcare issues related to closures are entitled to pay at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $12,000 in the aggregate (over a 12-week period).
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