Are Employers Required to Provide Paid Leave for COVID Related Absences in the New Year? The Answer Might Surprise You!
January 8, 2021
With all the noise coming out of Washington, D.C. around last week’s new COVID-19 relief package, it was easy to miss the answer to the question, are employers still required to provide paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “FFCRA”) in the New Year? We, like many, assumed an extension of this benefit would be baked into the $2 trillion government spending package, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 27th. However, we were mistaken. The mandated benefits employees received under the FFCRA were allowed to lapse on December 31, 2020.
As many will recall, the FFCRA required most employers to provide sick and family leave for various COVID-19 related matters, including eighty (80) hours of paid sick leave and twelve (12) weeks of family medical leave for full time employees (click here to read a prior Brody and Associates article regarding the FFCRA).
So, what does that mean for employers?
Beginning on January 1, 2021, employers who voluntarily provide FFCRA leave to their employees will be provided payroll tax credits to offset the cost of the benefits being provided. The key difference being granting time off is now voluntary versus mandated under the FFCRA. The new bill leaves unchanged the eligibility requirements and the amounts of leave available. It is important to note employers are not permitted to take a second tax credit in 2021 for employees who already exhausted FFCRA leave in 2020.
A final note, the FFCRA is a federal law and various states have enacted their own COVID-19 related leave laws which may not have expired on December 31st. For instance, New York’s requirement that employers provide job-protected sick leave to employees who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation, did not expire at the end of 2020.
The subject matter of COVID-19 posts are often very technical. It is also an evolving area of law and very fact specific. Our goal here is to simply alert you to some of the key issues involved. We urge you to seek competent legal counsel before applying these ideas to your specific situation. Since March, we have had a team of attorneys focusing on COVID-19 related developments and they continue to stand ready to help you with any issues involving the pandemic.