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What Are An Employer's Obligations Under the Families First Act?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) obligates certain employers to provide certain employees with sick leave and/or additional family and medical leave due to COVID-19. These new requirements apply to covered employers through Dec. 31, 2020.

These benefits are being reimbursed dollar-for-dollar by the federal government as refundable tax credits. Tax credits will be paid for all qualifying wages paid and amounts incurred to maintain health insurance coverage under the FFCRA.

Who is a covered employer?

Certain public employers and all private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Federal employers may only be obligated to provide the paid sick leave.

If you have fewer than 50 employees, you may qualify for an exemption from some aspects of the FFCRA if complying would jeopardize the viability of your business as a going concern. More guidance on covered employers and exemptions is expected in April 2020.

What benefits are required?

You must offer two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave and up to 10 additional weeks of paid, expanded family and medical leave. The rates of pay required vary based on the reason for the employee's absence.

Two weeks paid sick leave:

Regular rate of pay is required when the employee cannot work (or telework) due to:

  • Quarantine (by a federal, state of local government order or on the advice of a medical provider)
  • Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis

Two-thirds pay is required when the employee cannot work (or telework) because:

  • They have a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine
  • Their child's school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19
  • They are experiencing a substantially similar condition

10 weeks paid, expanded family and medical leave:

Two-thirds pay is required when the employee cannot work (or telework) due to a bona fide need to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19

What about part-time employees?

Where a full-time employee is entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave as explained above, part-time employees are eligible for the same number of paid sick leave hours as they typically work, on average, in a two-week period.

Where a full-time employee would be eligible for up to 10 weeks of leave at 40 hours a week, part-time employees are eligible for paid, expanded family and medical leave for the same number of hours they would typically work, on average, over that period.

If you have questions about your obligations under the FFCRA, contact an experienced employment law attorney.

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