The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was recently signed by President Donald Trump as a means for supporting employees impacted by COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division will be administering and enforcing the new law’s paid leave requirements, which are scheduled to come into effect beginning Wednesday, April 1. The emergency provisions are scheduled to expire on December 31.
“What the Families First Coronavirus Response Act does, among many other things, is it requires employers of 500 or fewer employees to provide expanded family and medical leave,” said Bryan Little, Director of Employment Policy for California Farm Bureau Federation and Chief Operating Officer for the Farm Employers Labor Service (FELS). “Then the other requirement is for paid sick leave, that is in addition to California required paid sick leave, and that is two weeks or 80 hours at an employee’s regular pay.”
All employees will be granted an additional two weeks of paid sick leave at the full rate of pay if they are unable to work because of quarantine or if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. If any employee is unable to work due to a need to care for a quarantined family member or are unable to find available child care, the employee will be entitled to two weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employer’s regular rate of pay. Employees who have been on the job for more than 30 days will also receive an additional ten weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds of their regular pay rate. The expanded leave provided to employees will be in addition to any other paid leave regulations that are currently in effect.
Small businesses that have fewer than 50 employees may be able to qualify for an exemption from the FFCRA requirement. The specific criteria for which an employer may be exempt will be addressed in further detail in forthcoming regulations. “My understanding is that the exemption for small employers is limited only to leaves that an employer would be required to grant in relation to childcare because schools are closed. So, it’s a very limited hole in that requirement,” Little noted.
FELS has a comprehensive factsheet available online which can help employers navigate some of the issues related to FFCRA and other concerns regarding the impact COVID-19 is having on labor.