When news of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) struck the United States, uncertainty and panic ensued. In the weeks and months following COVID-19’s arrival in the US, the Federal Government responded by introducing and passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to assist working Americans who required COVID-19 related sick leave.
What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specific reasons related to COVID-19. The paid leave provisions became effective on April 1, 2020 and intended to run to December 31, 2020.
FFCRA requires that covered employers provide the following coverage for their employees:
- Two weeks (or up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work due to Federal, State, or local government quarantine order, health care provider recommended quarantine, and/or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and actively seeking a medical diagnosis
- Two weeks (or 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 because of required care to a subject of quarantine, care for a child under the age of 18 whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 related reasons, and/or the employee is experiencing a similar condition.
The Act also goes on to share that covered employers must provide their employees who have been employed for at least 30 days up to 10 additional weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular pay when an employee is unable to work due to the need for childcare related to COVID-19.
In late December 2020, with just days away from expiration, a new bill was signed into law permitting covered employers to voluntarily provide emergency paid sick leave or emergency paid FMLA under FFCRA as of January 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021 in exchange for a tax credit. In other words, FFCRA leave is no longer mandatory for covered employers to provide their employees, but those who offer it voluntarily will be eligible for a tax credit for the leave.
What does this mean for you? With the second wave of the pandemic in full effect, you may find yourself needing time away from your job to care for yourself or others. The COVID-19 Relief Bill, which extended voluntary paid sick leave by your employer, will not cover all employees or employers.
If you find yourself in a scenario where sick leave is necessary, it’s best to reach out to your employer to see if they are offering voluntarily paid leave to their employees. If your employer is unable to provide paid sick leave for all employees, they may still be able to offer you paid time off (PTO) or another form of paid leave.
If you believe you’ve acquired COVID-19 while on the job, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. States across the country are taking interest in their workers’ health and some have gone as far as creating protections for those who have contracted COVID-19 as a result of their employment – but not all. More so, employers are working to protect their employees by making their workspace safe and sanitary, so the possibility of contraction is limited. But again, not all.
COVID-19 remains a national and worldwide concern. We’re sure to see more news, reports, and bills created to support and protect our country’s workers.