The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The U.S. Department of Labor has moved quickly to implement new emergency paid sick leave laws.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is one of several legislative packages that Congress passed in response to the health and economic calamities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The law created the first-ever federal mandate that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide workers with short-term paid sick time for various reasons tied to COVID-19, and long-term paid leave to care for kids whose schools or childcare facilities are closed.

On April 1, the day the law took effect, the DOL issued a lengthy “temporary rule” that fleshed out various aspects of the law. The rule also took effect on April 1 and expires at the end of the year.

Under the FFCRA, employers with 500 or fewer workers must provide them with up to two weeks of sick leave at full pay up to a $511-per-day cap if they’re directly affected by COVID-19, and at partial pay up to $200 a day to care for affected family members.

The law lays out six “qualifying reasons” that let workers use the two-week paid sick leave benefit, including if they can’t work because of a quarantine or isolation order or have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a diagnosis.

The law also amends the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide workers with up to 10 weeks off at partial pay up to $200 per day to care for children whose schools or childcare centers have closed due to the virus, after two unpaid weeks. Employers covered by the law can seek reimbursement of any qualifying FFCRA leave through tax credits.

The existing FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid time off over a yearlong period for a variety of family and medical reasons, including if a worker has a serious health condition that prevents them from performing key parts of their job or if they need to take care of a sick family member. The law applies to all public agency employers and private companies with more than 50 employees.

Under the FFCRA, businesses with fewer than 50 employees can be exempted from having to provide leave to workers whose kids’ schools or child care providers are closed because of COVID-19, a carve-out that depends on the extent to which workers’ absences would disrupt companies’ operations.

‘Policy’ Decisions by DOL

While the statute says that people are eligible if they have to be home to care for a child who is under 18 years old because the child’s school or child care provider is shuttered due to COVID-19, the DOL in its regulation said the law can also cover children who are over 18 but have a physical or mental disability that requires care that isn’t available because of COVID-19 related shutdowns.