Just a few days ago, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the
Family First Coronavirus Response Act, “Family First Act.”
This is a package of provisions aimed at providing emergency relief to workers [by ensuring paid leave] and employers [through payroll tax credits]. The two main provisions of this bill are additions to the Family Medical Leave Act [FMLA] and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. We will cover these two provisions known as the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act below.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
This provision amends the FMLA to provide for a new type of public health emergency category of leave. This amendment applies to:
- Businesses with less than 500 employees
- Employees seeking leave for COVID-19 related reasons
Employees covered under this section must have been employed for at least 30 days. A qualifying public health emergency in connection with COVID-19 is added as a category by which an employee may qualify for paid leave. Any leave taken in connection with this new category will count towards the 12 weeks of leave over a 12-month period that the FMLA currently allows for.
The first ten days of leave are unpaid under this particular provision. The employee may opt to utilize paid leave days already provided by the employer or the employee may opt to utilize paid leave days provided for under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, which we will discuss below. After ten days, the employee is entitled to two-thirds of their regular wage with some limitations for higher wage earners.
The provision further requires that employers restore their employee to the same or equivalent position when said employee returns from leave. However, there are certain exemptions that some companies with less than 25 employees may qualify for. Also, there are exceptions for health care providers and emergency responders.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
This provision also applied to businesses with less than 500 employees. It provides that employees are entitled to paid sick leave of 80 hours for full time employees and for part-time employees the rough equivalent of hours they would have worked in a two-week period. This expands the paid sick leave coverage to employees who are subject to quarantine or caring for individuals subject to quarantine.
Significantly, it also extends to employees with children who are unable to find childcare
If paid leave is invoked because the employee is directly affected by COVID-19 (they have it or are awaiting test results) then they are entitled to paid leave at the same hourly pay with some limitations for larger wage earners. Employees taking leave to care for others are entitled to two-thirds regular pay with similar limitations for higher wage earners. The employer will be required to post model notices.
The Secretary of Labor has the power to provide exemptions as to the childcare provision described above for businesses with less than 50 employees if the provision would endanger the continued viability of the business.
The provisions provide that employers may receive the benefit of payroll tax credits to assist in paying the leave discussed above.