The Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA) is a mandate that requires the federal government to provide certain employers paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leaves due to qualified reasons related to COVID-19. The FFRCA is effective from 4/1/20 to 12/31/20 and applies to specific public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. As small businesses work to adapt to this changing landscape, it is important to understand how this act and its exemptions directly apply to you. This article is intended as a guide to the general understanding of the FFCRA and does not encompass every circumstance covered in the act. For further reading, here is an in-depth Q&A provided by the government.
Qualifying Reasons for Leave
Under FFCRA guidelines, an employee is qualified for coverage of paid leave if they have been employed a minimum of 30 days prior to the leave request. If an employee cannot physically or virtually work due to COVID-19, the employee is entitled to leave due to the following reasons:
Source: US Department of Labor.
Small Business Exemptions
If you are a small business with under 50 employees, you may be exempt from providing paid leave under certain circumstances. An authorized officer of the business (owner, general manager, etc.) may claim this exemption if one of three conditions below are determined:
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;
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
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.
It is important to note that this exemption is only applicable if the paid sick or expanded family and medical leave is requested due to qualified reason 5 (childcare) in the table above. Keep in constant communication with your team to determine the best course of action to maintain both business stability and employee safety.
Duration of Leave
Full-time employees are eligible for up to two weeks (80 hours) of paid leave. If an employee is claiming qualifying reason #5 (see above table), they are eligible for an additional 10 weeks of paid leave under the extended family leave provision. Part-time employees are eligible for the average amount of hours they would normally work in that time span. Unless the employee is remotely working, this paid leave must be used in full-day increments.
Calculation of Pay
For leave reasons #1, #2, and #3 in the table above, employees are entitled their regular rate of pay or the state minimum wage-whichever is higher (max $511 per day/$5,110 over two weeks). For leave reasons #4 and #6, employees shall be paid 2/3 of their regular rate or state minimum wage (max $200 per day/$2,000 over two weeks). If an employee takes the full 12 weeks allocated by reason #5 (two weeks individual+10 weeks family leave), he/she/they are entitled to 2/3 of their regular or state minimum rate ($200 per day, $12,000 total for 12-week span).
What happens if my business shuts down or employees are furloughed?
If your business shuts down on or after the 4/1 start date of FFCRA, your employees are not eligible to claim paid sick or extended family and medical leave. This remains the same regardless of the reason for the shutdown, whether that be for lack of business or a federal or state mandate. However, if an employee is on paid sick leave and the decision is made to shut down operations, they are entitled to the pay up until that close date. For a reduction of scheduled working hours, employees can claim leave based on their new schedules, as that does not fall under a COVID qualifying reason. If your employee cannot work full-time due to any of the six qualifying reasons, he/she/they are entitled to the full benefits of the act.
Furloughed employees are not eligible for paid leave under FFCRA. This is also true if you inform employees that the business will reopen at a later date. During this time, employees may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. If the business reopens during the applicable time frame of FFCRA, then employees would once again be eligible for paid leave due to COVID related reasons.