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COVID-19 Sick Pay and Family Leave

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This article contains information that has since changed. Please check our blog regularly for recent updates. 

On September 11, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was revised to implement the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions. The revised rule clarifies workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities regarding FFCRA paid leave. The Department issued its initial temporary rule implementing provisions under the FFCRA on April 1, 2020. FFCRA includes both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EMLA).

Under the FFCRA, private employers with fewer than 500 employees, and most public sector employers, must provide their employees sick pay for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Public sector employers (i.e., governments, school districts, etc.) must comply with the FFCRA; however, they are not eligible for the credits that private employers are eligible for.

In general, FFCRA requires that employees be provided the following:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (under federal, state, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (under federal, state, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

Also, employers must provide to employees that have been with the organization for at least 30 days:

  • Up to an additional ten weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee is unable to work due to a need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

The duration of leave and calculation of pay is dependent on the individual employee’s qualifying factor(s). Additional information can be found on the Department of Labor’s website and should be consulted frequently. Also, refer to the Department of Labor’s FFCRA: Questions and Answers.

If wages are being provided to employees under FFCRA, they must be properly recorded on the fourth quarter Form 941 and employees’ W-2 forms for 2020. Even though public sector employers are not eligible to receive the reimbursement through tax credits, taxable wages for Form 941 are still impacted. Follow the instructions for Form 941 carefully.

As the regulations regarding COVID-19 are continually evolving, specific employee questions and human resource matters should be directed to your local health department.

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