The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has been signed into law. This bill addresses many Coronavirus issues - one being PAID family leave and sick leave. This bill applies to ALL employers with 500 or less employees. Small and midsize companies are required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave (at 100% of the person's normal salary up to $511 per day) and up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave (at 67% of the person’s normal pay, up to $200 per day) for employees affected by the coronavirus who have worked at the company for at least a month. By the way - an employee will qualify for family and medical leave if they need to care for a child whose school or child-care facility is closed due to the virus.
QUALIFICATION FOR SICK LEAVE
To qualify for sick leave an employee must be told to quarantine, show symptoms, be exposed to the virus or is trying to get a test or preventative care. As you can see the qualifications are broad, and there also is the issue of employers getting verification of the need for sick leave. Congress does not want a situation where employees must submit a doctors note although there is no exact rule yet. The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 1 month prior to requesting leave.
QUALIFICATION FOR FMLA
To qualify for Family Medical Leave the employee is eligible if they need to care for a family member which, as mentioned above, includes the need to care for a child whose school or child-care facility is closed due to the coronavirus. Again, there is question about the documentation that can be required by an employer when an employee applies to utilize this new benefit. The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 1 month prior to requesting leave.
PAYING PART TIME EMPLOYEES
Part time employees should be paid sick leave in an amount equivalent to the number of hours they would normally work in a two week period of time. If the employee normally is scheduled to work 15 hours a week they would be eligible for up to 30 hours of leave.
HOW WILL SMALL BUSINESSES PAY FOR THIS?
A concerning issue for small business owners is how they are going to pay for these new employee benefits especially at a time when consumers are tightening their purse strings and being ordered to stay in their homes thus halting spending. The bill allows for a tax credit to cover the employers costs which is applied to the tax the business would pay for each employee's Social Security. If sick or FMLA leave ends up costing more than the Social Security then the Federal Government will send the employer a check to cover the additional costs. There is no plan yet in place as to how that will work or how quickly employers will receive checks.
Small businesses may also qualify for an exemption from the requirement to pay these benefits if they are under 50 employees and having to pay these benefits “would jeopardize the viability of the business.” There are no clear rules or instructions on how a business would apply for this exemption or how lenient the exemption will be.
There are of course exceptions to the above rules - some classes such as health care providers like hospitals and nursing homes can be exempted from the requirements. The above analysis of the bill is a general summary that applies to most, but not all employers. More to come.
This should not be construed as advise from an attorney. This does not create an attorney client relationship.