By: The Saqui Law Group
As an update to our previous eblast available here, The Senate passed the H.R. 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act this yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. In a vote 90 to 8, the Senate approved legislation to provide paid sick leave to American workers affected by the new coronavirus. President Donald Trump also signed the Bill last night. The Bill expands Family and Medical Leave through December 31, 2020. You can read the Bill here.
The Bill is large, complex, and raises a lot of unanswered questions. For those reasons, you should seek the assistance of legal counsel before navigating if you have specific questions or a need arises. A synopsis of the basics follows.
Covered Employers: includes employers with fewer than 500 employees (the Secretary of Labor has authority to issue exemptions for employers with less than 50 employees.)
Notice to Employees: The Act requires employers to post and keep posted on the premises a Notice to be prepared by the Secretary of Labor the requirements of the Act. This Notice has not yet been published, but is to be prepared no later than seven days after enactment of the Act.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expands Emergency Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) temporarily AND adds a separate temporary Paid Sick Time provision.
- Eligible Employees: Any employee is eligible so long as the employee has worked for the employer for at least 30 days prior to the leave, and employees qualify if the employee is unable to work or telework due to a need for leave to care for their child under the age of 18 if the school or place of care has been closed due to COVID-19.
- Employer Threshold: Applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees. The Secretary of Labor can specially exempt employers with less than 50 employees by regulation where imposition of the Act would jeopardize the viability of the business.
- Pay Under FMLA Expansion: the first 10 days of leave under this provision may be unpaid, however an employee can substitute vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave instead. The pay will be not less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay. In no event will the pay exceed $200/day and $10,000 in aggregate for the 12-week FMLA leave period.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave:
- When is Paid Sick Leave Available: An employer must provide paid sick leave to employees unable to telework or work because (1) the employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19, (2) the employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, (3) the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis, (4) the employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order for quarantine or isolation, (5) the employee is caring for a son or daughter if the school of place of care has been closed; (6) the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition to be specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
- Duration of Paid Sick Time: For full-time employees, 80 hours of Paid Sick Time is available, for part-time employees, the employer should provide a number of hours equal to the number of hours that employee works on average over a 2-week period.
- Who can Use Paid Sick Leave: the Paid Sick Leave is available for immediate use regardless of how long the employee has been employed by the employer.
- Cap on Paid Sick Leave Pay: the Paid Sick Leave is not to exceed $511/day and $5,110 in aggregate if the employee is out for reasons (1), (2), or (3) listed above. The cap is $200/day and $2,000 in aggregate if the employee is out for reasons (4), (5), or (6) listed above. If below the cap, the Paid Sick Leave should be compensated at the Regular Rate of Pay.
How Does Employer Pay For The New Paid Sick Leave and FMLA Expansion?: There are refundable tax credits for employers who are required to pay out under the Act. Contact your accountant for information on how this will be processed, and we expect additional guidance for employers to be published soon.
Unemployment Overlap? The Bill would make it easier for individuals to receive unemployment insurance (UI) benefits if they are not eligible for paid leave but are still unable to go to work because of the Coronavirus. The legislation builds on the guidance already provided by the Department of Labor by waiving the able and available UI eligibility requirements, as well as the one-week waiting period required before an individual can apply for UI benefits.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
Employers should be prepared to field questions about this very complex, very new, and very confusing law. Legal counsel is highly recommended to navigate these issues. The experts at The Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated, are available to answer your questions. Our office remains open and we will continue to provide updates as they develop.