As the coronavirus spread in 2020, Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which provided benefits for employees affected by the coronavirus. Additionally, under the FFCRA, employees were also allowed time off to care for their children or for a family member. The initiative allowed business owners with 500 or fewer employees to provide sick leave, insurance coverage, and other benefits to their employees. This support encouraged employers to keep their workers on payroll while ensuring everyone’s safety during the pandemic. Unfortunately for some, the DOL has decided that they will not extend sick leave under the FFCRA. However, the law does allow employers to voluntarily give employees paid sick leave. If employers choose to give their employees PTO under the FFCRA, they may receive tax credits.
Paid Leave Requirements Under the FFCRA
Here’s a refresher as to what benefits employees recieved in 2020 under the FFCRA:
FFCRA Paid Time Off
The Department of Labor implemented the FFCRA because they wanted employees to stay home from work if they contracted Covid-19. With paid time off, employees were more likely to stay home, quarantine, and heal instead of working and spreading the virus. The FFCRA allowed workers to take up to 80 hours of paid time off due to reasons related to the coronavirus. Overall, employees with a medical note were able to stay home on paid leave. This was allowed only if they tested positive for the virus or if they were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
The FFCRA also gave paid time off to employees who needed to take care of an individual in quarantine. Employees who weren’t experiencing symptoms themselves earned 2/3 of their regular rate of pay during time-off. Employees who utilized this benefit typically couldn’t work because they were too busy caring for a loved one, such as a parent, grandparent, or child.
As of December 31st, 2020, employees can no longer take paid time off under the FFCRA unless their employer voluntarily chooses to extend the benefits.
Expanded Family and Medical Leave
Under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), employees could take an additional 10 weeks paid and two weeks unpaid time off, if needed. This, under the FFCRA, is called expanded family and medical leave. Employees were allowed to do this if they were unable to work due to a child whose school or childcare provider closed. If a parent chose to take time off, they were compensated at 2/3 of their regular rate of pay.
Now that the FFCRA has ended, parents can no longer take advantage of this benefit. This also ended on December 31st, 2020.
Who Qualified for Paid Time Off Under the FFCRA?
Employees who were in a company with 500 or fewer workers were eligible for paid sick leave due to COVID-19 in 2020. Any employee was eligible for paid time off under the FFCRA if they were unable to work under these conditions:
- The employee was under local, state, or federal lockdown orders
- The employee’s healthcare provider suggested that the employee should self-quarantine
- They have covid-19 symptoms
- An employee must care for someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or in quarantine
- They must care for a child (under 18) who no longer has school or a daycare facility
- The employee is undergoing conditions specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
What You Can Do Next
Despite the expiration of the FFCRA, if you need to take time off due to the coronavirus, there’s still hope. For those who are still affected , you may find the Family and Medical Leave Act useful. According to the DOL, “An employee who is sick or whose family members are sick may be entitled to leave under the FMLA under certain circumstances”. If qualified, the FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave; however, this is only for employees with a serious health condition, or for those taking care of someone. They define a “serious health condition” as such:
An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves: inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or. continuing treatment by a health care provider.Family and Medical Leave Act
Ultimately, without protections from the FFCRA, the FMLA will protect eligible employees who are incapaticated by COVID-19. In addition to that, you may also take time off to care for family members who are incapacticated by a serious health condition. As a qualified employee, your employer must provide you with ample unpaid time off to take care of yourself or a loved one. Your employer may request a medical certification to confirm that the serious health condition exists.
Do you need to properly track the time you take off due to COVID-19 or other reasons? Try Timesheets.com. You can monitor employee leave and track accrual balances to ensure that you have accurate time-off records. Learn more below!