PAID LEAVE GUIDANCE
The U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL) and Treasury recently released new guidance for employers regarding the implementation of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA). The new paid leave provisions only apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees and is effective April 1, 2020. Please see below for detailed guidance on the new paid leave law.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Guidance

Paid Sick Leave:

The FFRCA provides that covered employers must provide to all employees:

  • 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 because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.
 
Paid Family and Medical Leave:

A covered employer must provide to employees that it has employed for at least 30 days :

  • 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 is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.


Qualifying Reasons for Sick Leave: Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Qualifying Reasons for Family and Medical Leave: Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for expanded family leave if the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.

Duration of Leave:

For reasons (1)-(4) and (6):  A full-time employee is eligible for up to 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 reason (5):  A full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of 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.


For leave reasons (1), (2), or (3):  employees taking leave shall be paid 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).

For leave reasons (4) or (6):  employees taking leave shall be paid 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).

For leave reason (5):  employees taking leave shall be paid 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—two weeks of paid sick leave followed by up to 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave).

Employer Notice:  Each covered employer must post in a conspicuous place on its premises a notice of FFCRA requirements. If an employee is working remotely, the employer may satisfy this requirement by emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees, or posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website. The approved DOL paid leave notice document can be found here .

Prohibitions:  Employers may not discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who takes paid sick leave under the FFCRA and files a complaint or institutes a proceeding under or related to the FFCRA.

Penalties and Enforcement:  Employers in violation of the first two weeks’ paid sick time or unlawful termination provisions of the FFCRA will be subject to the penalties and enforcement described in Sections 16 and 17 of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 29 U.S.C. 216; 217. Employers in violation of the provisions providing for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid leave to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) are subject to the enforcement provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Department will observe a temporary period of non-enforcement for the first 30 days after the Act takes effect, so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act. For purposes of this non-enforcement position, “good faith” exists when violations are remedied and the employee is made whole as soon as practicable by the employer, the violations were not willful, and the Department receives a written commitment from the employer to comply with the Act in the future. 

Small Business Exemption:

A small business is exempt from certain paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements if providing an employee such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. This means a small business is exempt from mandated paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave requirements only if all three of the following requirements are met:

  • The employer employs fewer than 50 employees;
  • The leave is requested because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; and
  • An authorized officer of the business has determined that at least one of the following three conditions is met:
  1. The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity; 
  2. The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or 
  3. There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.

Documentation Requirements for Employees under the FFRCA: Employees must provide employers with documentation in support of paid sick leave. Employees must support leave requests with appropriate information, including the employee’s name, qualifying reason for leave, a statement that the employee is unable to work or telework for that reason, and leave date(s). Documents that support the employee’s absence may include: a copy of the federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19, or written documentation by a health care provider advising the employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.

Employers may also require employees to provide additional information in support of their expanded family and medical leave taken to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19-related reasons. For example, this may include a notice of closure or unavailability from the employee’s child’s school, place of care, or child care provider, including a notice that may have been posted on a government, school, or day care website, published in a newspaper, or emailed from an employee or official of the school, place of care, or child care provider.

Please also note that all existing certification requirements under the FMLA remain in effect if employees are taking leave for one of the existing qualifying reasons under the FMLA. For example, if an employee taking leave beyond the two weeks of emergency paid sick leave because of their medical condition for COVID-19-related reasons rises to the level of a serious health condition, the employee must continue to  provide medical certifications  under the FMLA if required by the employer.
 
Refundable Tax Credits for Employers
 
  • Eligible Employers may claim tax credits for qualified leave wages paid to employees on leave due to paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19 for leave taken beginning on April 1, 2020, and ending on December 31, 2020. Eligible Employers will claim the credits on their federal employment tax returns (e.g., Form 941, Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return), but they can benefit more quickly from the credits by reducing their federal employment tax deposits. If there are insufficient federal employment taxes to cover the amount of the credits, an Eligible Employer may request an advance payment of the credits from the IRS by submitting a Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19. The IRS expects to begin processing these requests during April 2020. For the circumstances, amounts, and period for which the credits are available, see “Determining the Amount of the Tax Credit for Qualified Sick Leave Wages,” “Determining the Amount of the Tax Credit for Qualified Family Leave Wages,” and “Periods of Time for Which Credits are Available.”
  • Covered employers are entitled to receive a credit in the full amount of the qualified sick leave wages and qualified family leave wages, plus allocable qualified health plan expenses and the employer’s share of Medicare tax, paid for leave during the period beginning April 1, 2020, and ending December 31, 2020.
  • The credit is allowed against the taxes imposed on employers by section 3111(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (Social Security Tax).
  • If the amount of the credit exceeds the employer portion of these federal employment taxes, then the excess is treated as an over-payment and refunded to the employer under sections 6402(a) or 6413(a) of the Code. The qualified sick leave wages and qualified family leave wages are not subject to the taxes imposed on employers by sections 3111(a) and 3221(a) of the Code and employers are entitled to an additional credit for the taxes on employers imposed by section 3111(b) of the Code (Hospital Insurance (Medicare tax)) on such wages.
  • Covered employers that pay qualified leave wages will be able to retain an amount of all federal employment taxes equal to the amount of the qualified leave wages paid, plus the allocable qualified health plan expenses and the amount of the employer’s share of Medicare tax imposed on those wages, rather than depositing them with the IRS. The federal employment taxes that are available for retention by covered employers include federal income taxes withheld from employees, the employees’ share of social security and Medicare taxes, and the employer’s share of social security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.
  • If the federal employment taxes yet to be deposited are not sufficient to cover the Eligible Employer’s cost of qualified leave wages, plus the allocable qualified health plan expenses and the amount of the employer’s share of Medicare tax imposed on those wages, the employer will be able file a request for an advance payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to begin processing these requests in April 2020.
  • Recordkeeping Requirements: Eligible Employers claiming the credits for qualified leave wages, plus allocable qualified health plan expenses and the employer’s share of Medicare taxes, must retain records and documentation related to and supporting each employee’s leave to substantiate the claim for the credits, as well retaining the Forms 941, Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return, and 7200, Advance of Employer Credits Due To COVID-19, and any other applicable filings made to the IRS requesting the credit.
 
For more detail on the refundable tax credits and the procedures to receive payment of the advance credit, see the Treasury Department’s guidance here .
 
Department of Labor FAQ: Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the new paid leave law can be found here

Questions? Contact NALHFA at info@nalhfa.org .
 
Please note these updates do not constitute legal advice. Information contained may be subject to interpretation and companies should consult with their own counsel.