Many businesses are facing economic hardships now that the coronavirus has considerably slowed consumer spending. Without an influx of income, many business owners made tough decisions to cut employee hours and pay throughout the past few weeks. As a result of this change, anxious employees try to figure out how to balance their new financial situations. In response to coronavirus’ economic effect on businesses, the federal government took action to provide relief.
In March 2020, the Federal government signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) into law. This initiative provides businesses (with fewer than 500 employees) with paid sick leave, insurance coverage, nutrition assistance, and enhanced unemployment benefits. With this new support, employers can keep their employees on payroll while ensuring employee safety. Business owners will receive tax credits for any costs associated with paid leave taken because of the coronavirus. In addition to that, employees will receive protected leave with payroll. This keeps employees’ income in tact while allowing them to support their own safety.
The Federal government hopes that the FFCRA will encourage both employers and employees to stay safe and healthy during the outbreak.
Who’s Covered Under the FFCRA
Luckily, the FFCRA covers almost all employees; however, there are some exceptions. Employers who have workers in the Health Care Provider or Emergency Responder fields may exclude their employees from eligibility for the act. This exception is possible solely because those in the medical industry are considered “essential” workers.
Paid Sick Leave Benefits
If an employee is not a health care provider or emergency responder, employers must provide their employees with:
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 (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis;– Department of Labor
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 bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to 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.– Department of Labor
Additional Benefits for Parents
Most employees have adjusted to their new work-from-home environments fairly smoothly; however, some employees haven’t adjusted as effortlessly. With current school lockdown orders in place, a lot of children spend their days at home. When children are at home, they may inadvertently distract their parents from their work-from-home duties. Unfortunately, it’s not feasible for parents to sort out new work-life balances while they’re adjusting to online work for the first time. Most parents end up overwhelmed just thinking about how they can remedy this situation. Thankfully, FFCRA provides extra help for parents and guardians who can’t seem to balance work and childcare at the same time. Employees who have been with the company for 30 days or longer are eligible for extra assistance:
Up to an additional 10 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 bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.– Department of Labor
Qualifying for Paid Sick Leave Under the FFCRA
Any employee is eligible if they’re unable to work (or work remotely) under these circumstances:
- The employee is under local, state, or federal lockdown orders.
- A health care provider advised the employee to self-quarantine.
- They’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are in the process of getting a medical diagnosis.
- The employee must care for a locked-down or quarantined individual.
- They must oversee a child who no longer has school or daycare services.
- The employee is undergoing any other similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Calculating Employee’s Pay
An employee’s pay changes depending on the situation:
In summary, if the employee is unable to work because of a lockdown order, self-quarantine, or is taking care of another individual in quarantine, they are entitled to their regular rate of pay or minimum wage (whichever is higher). For those individuals, they can earn up to $511 per day and $5,110 over a 2-week period.
Next, if an employee takes leave to care for an individual in quarantine or has a similar condition (not listed), they are entitled to 2/3 of their regular rate of pay or minimum wage (whichever is higher). Those employees can earn up to $200 per day or $2,000 over a 2-week period.
Lastly, if employees must care for a child, they can earn 2/3 their regular rate of pay or minimum wage (whichever is higher). They can earn up to $200 per day and up to $12,000 over a 12-week period.
Penalties for Employers
Any employer who violates the FFCRA conditions for employee paid sick time or unlawfully terminates an employee are subject to the penalties and enforcement described in sections 16 and 17 of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 29 U.S.C. 216; 217. Employers are subject to fines, payment of wages, and penalties if they do not comply with the act, therefore it’s vital that employers follow it accordingly.
Track employee paid and unpaid time off easily with Timesheets.com. We will track your employees’ time off balances accurately and efficiently.