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Opinion: Breaking down the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

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The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires governmental agencies and private companies with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick time for COVID-19 related qualifying events and up to 10 weeks of additional unpaid time off for qualifying child care events. The FFCRA includes both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. Tax credits related to the paid leave are mandated by the FFCRA.

Under the ESLA, a business must pay up to 80 hours of sick time if an associate is unable to work or telework due to any of six qualifying events or combination.

1. Does the organization have work or telework available for the team member to perform that he is unable to because of a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order?

2. Has he been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine for reasons related to COVID-19? Health care provider is defined as a licensed doctor of medicine, nurse practitioner or other health care provider accepted by the employer’s group health plan.

3. Is he experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis?

4. Is he caring for an individual subject to a federal, state or local government quarantine or isolation order? 
5. Is he caring for an individual subject to self-quarantine due to advice from a health care provider? For both the fourth and fifth qualifying reasons, the individual must genuinely need his care and be a family member, someone regularly residing in his home or a person with whom he has a relationship that creates an expectation he would care for that person in such a situation. 
6. Does he have to care for a son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed or because his child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19? The definition of son or daughter is the same definition that is in the Family and Medical Leave Act. A child care provider is someone who cares for the child, including paid and unpaid, with and without a license.

The laborer must receive 100% of his regular rate of pay for the first three qualifying occurrences. The limit is $511 per day and $5,110 total.

He must receive two-thirds of his regular rate of pay for the final three qualifying incidents. The limit is $200 per day and $2,000 total for qualifying situations four through six. The corporation may choose to pay more than the two-thirds but cannot claim, and will not receive a tax credit for, any amount over the FFCRA statutory limits. For all events, the worker may choose to substitute PTO, vacation, sick time or personal leave. For Nos. 3-6, he may choose to supplement the third of the unpaid time off with those company benefits, up to his regular earnings.

For those not teleworking, qualifying circumstances one through five must be taken in full-day increments. For No. 6, if the staff member and enterprise agree, the leave may be taken intermittently in any increment decided. Once an employee begins taking the paid leave, he must continue until he uses the full amount or no longer has a qualifying reason for taking the paid leave. If he no longer has a qualifying reason, he may take any remaining paid leave at a later time if another qualifying event occurs.

If teleworking, he may take time off intermittently in any increment that he and his employer agree upon for all six qualifying events.

Whether teleworking or not, the associate may take time off in one-hour increments for the 10 additional weeks available under the EFMLEA for a child care qualifying event.

The FFCRA program ends on Dec. 31, so any unused time does not carry over into the next year. In addition, workers may not be paid for any unused leave upon departing the company.

Create policies, procedures, forms and checklists to ensure compliance with the new law. Be aware that the FFCRA may also intersect with the FMLA, Americans with Disabilities Act, discrimination laws, Department of Labor Wage and Hour laws, OSHA and workers’ compensation.

Lynne Haggerman holds a master of science in industrial organizational psychology and is president/owner of Lynne Haggerman & Associates LLC, a Springfield firm specializing in management training, retained search, outplacement and human resource consulting. She can be reached at lynne@lynnehaggerman.com.

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