One of the many unanticipated issues employers have been required to familiarize themselves with and address throughout the pandemic is the quickly passed Family First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”). In particular, the Act requires most employers (i.e., those with fewer than 500 employees and even those not otherwise subject to the Family Medical Leave Act) to provide paid leave to employees for specific work absences related to COVID-19 and to provide notice to their employees of their rights under the Act. By its terms, the Act is set to expire December 31, 2020.
With the new stimulus package passed by Congress on December 21, 2020, many employers may question whether their obligations under the Act have been extended, extinguished or otherwise modified? In short, the answer is no; Congress did not elect to renew or extend the mandatory paid leave provisions of the Act.
HOWEVER, Congress provided a carrot to covered employers to entice their voluntary continued compliance through March 31, 2021. More specifically, covered employers who continue to provide paid leave to their employees in compliance with the original mandates of the Act can take a tax credit for the leave benefits provided through March 31, 2021.
Although many employers may delight in avoiding the up-front expense associated with this additional (paid) leave to employees, the refusal of employers to provide such leave may, inadvertently, lead infected, potentially infected or otherwise ill employees to err on the side of reporting to work, thus resulting in additional workplace infections, closures, business interruptions and expenses. Hence, prudent employers should carefully consider voluntary compliance through March 31 in conjunction with their business practices and policies, the ongoing needs of their business and any leave otherwise provided to their employees.
For more information about the FFCRA and the rights and obligations of employers and employees in the era of COVID-19, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys of Law Firm Carolinas.