House Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act: How It Will Impact Employers

House Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act: How It Will Impact Employers

Posted on 03/16/2020 at 08:53 AM by Melissa Schilling

On Saturday, March 14, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” The U.S. Senate is expected to pass the bill early this week, be approved by President Trump, and therefore become an enforceable law within the next few days. The bill contains several provisions that will impact employers with fewer than 500 employees, including provisions requiring paid family and sick leave. Once the bill becomes law, the provisions will go into effect within 15 days and will remain in effect until December 31, 2020 unless otherwise modified by the U.S. Legislature. 

If you are an employer with fewer than 500 employees, here are the key provisions you need to be aware of: 

Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) for COVID-19 Absences

  • The bill expands the FMLA to provide 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave for eligible employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees.  
  • Eligible employees include employees who have worked at least 30 calendar days for the employer. 
  • The first two weeks may be unpaid; however, an employee may – without compulsion by the employer – use accrued personal or sick leave during this time. 
  • After the first two weeks, employers must compensate employees in an amount not less than two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay. 
  • The leave applies to COVID-19 related absences including absences to comply with quarantine requirements or recommendations, to care for a family member who must comply with quarantine requirements or recommendations, and to care for a child if their school or childcare provider is closed.   
  • The bill also authorizes the Department of Labor to issue regulations to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the paid FMLA leave requirements when the imposition of such requirements would “jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”

Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19 Absences

  • Employers must provide two weeks of paid sick leave to full-time employees who: (1) self-isolate because the employee is diagnosed with coronavirus; (2) obtain a medical diagnosis or care if such employee is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus; (3) comply with quarantine recommendations or requirements; (4) care for a family member for the same reasons; or (5) care for a child if their school or childcare provider is closed.  
  • Employers must provide part-time employees with paid sick leave on a pro-rata basis (equal to the number of hours they work, on average, over two weeks).
  • The paid sick leave cannot be carried over. 
  • If an employer already offers paid sick leave to its employees, coronavirus paid leave must be in addition to the already existing leave.
  • An employer may not require an employee to use other paid leave provided by the employer before the employee uses the coronavirus paid leave. 
  • Employers must post a notice informing employees of their rights to leave. 

To help pay for the costs associated with providing paid family and sick leave, the bill contains a tax credit equal to 100% of sick leave wages paid by an employer. 

Given the fluid nature of this issue, we will provide an update of these requirements once the bill is passed by the Senate and new developments emerge.  



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