The new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will have a significant impact on businesses, especially when it comes to HR support services for small business. Many businesses are uncertain about how the act applies to them, whether they qualify as an FFCRA exclusion, and what to do next.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Please note that more details and fine tuning may occur in the days, weeks, and months ahead, and this information is subject to change.
When do companies have to pay sick leave?
There are six qualifying reasons for paid sick leave:
- Employee is subject to a government quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual subject to government quarantine/isolation order or health care provider recommendation. (The other person does not need to be a family member.)
- The employee is caring for an eligible “son or daughter” under 18 if school or place of care has been closed due to COVID-19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing any other “substantially similar condition.”
Note that the Department of Labor has authority to exempt smaller employers from the portion of the act highlighted in number five on the list above.
Are there FFCRA exclusions or exceptions for smaller businesses?
An employer, including a religious or nonprofit organization, with fewer than 50 employees is exempt from providing:
a) paid sick leave due to school or place of care closures or child-care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons, and
b) expanded family and medical leave due to school or place of care closures or child-care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons when doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern.
A small business may claim this exemption if an authorized officer of the business has determined that one of these three factors applies:
- The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity.
- The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities.
- There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and those labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.
To summarize, a small business is exempt if these three factors are true:
- Fewer than 50 employees
- Leave is requested because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or child-care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons
- An authorized officer of the business has determined that at least one of the three conditions apply
How will furloughing employees affect their ability to file for unemployment?
To be eligible for partial unemployment benefits, the employee cannot work more than 80% of the hours normally worked. Additionally, if the person earns 20% or less of their weekly benefit rate, the person would receive the full weekly benefit. For earnings greater than the 20%, the weekly benefit would be reduced.
Do the new federal sick leave regulations supersede other regulations?
No. Paid sick leave under the new act is in addition to other leave provided under federal, state or local law or to an employer’s existing company policy.
What grants, loans, and tax credits are available for small businesses?
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $350 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses keep workers employed. The program is open until June 30, 2020, and covers businesses up to 500 employees and certain other organizations, Native American tribes, and individuals. A summary is available here.
If you’d like an evaluation of your existing HR policies to ensure your organization is compliant with new laws or if you would like HR support services for your small business, please contact us.