Guiding You Through the Uncharted Terrain of COVID-19 and FFCRA

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

April 1, 2020

With Coronavirus comes uncertainty about our employment, the future of our businesses, and an overall uneasiness about what life will look like once we return to normal. There is so much data, speculation, and clutter. I would like to offer you some resources to help you sort through the clutter as it relates to HR. This post addresses the importance of knowing what’s new with COVID-19 regulations in the workplace.

The federal government has acted quickly to implement policies to protect workers and workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. One significant new development – the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) - effective April 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020.

Employers should ensure they know what’s new regarding the FFCRA and take appropriate steps to implement the new policies. A great first step is to ensure the required FFCRA posting is visible in your workplace today.

The FFCRA was put in place to protect workers for 3 reasons:

  • If they become infected with COVID-19
  • If a family member becomes affected with COVID-19
  • If an employee needs to be off of work and are unable to telecommute due to day care/child care/schools being cancelled due to the public health emergency around COVID-19
FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT
Expanded FMLA
Existing What is changing
Employers with 50+ employees must post FMLA notice All employers should post new FFCRA poster
Employees of Employers with 50+ employees are eligable All employers unless they have an exemption*
Employed 1 year, worked 1,250 hours Employed 30 days, no hour minimum
Unpaid (in Utah, other states vary) Pay up to 10 weeks of the leave at 2/3 pay**
Qualified medical reasons for self or eligible family member Added eligibility: Unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under age 18
Paid Sick Leave
Existing What is changing
No posting required (unless in a state where required) Must post new FFCRA poster
Unpaid (in Utah, other states vary) Paid sick leave for the first 10 days of a qualified leave**
Used for employee sickness (typically) Expanded eligibility: Those subject to quarantine, care for ill family member, or care for child with no school or daycare
Elective offering (unless in a state where required) Any private entity that employs fewer than 500 employees and any public entity that employs 1 or more employees.
Unemployment
Existing What is changing
Application and approval process which can last up to 3 weeks (or more) Eases process to receive unemployment benefits through waiving many of the restrictions imposed by the normal process
In Utah, to apply: https://jobs.utah.gov/ui/home No Change
Required posters Employers must tell employees that they may be eligible for unemployment benefits due to COVID-19 and that they can seek advice from their local State Unemployment Office regarding application and their specific benefits.

*An exemption may be available if offering leave would be detrimental to the business. Please refer to the full FFCRA guidelines.

**Reimbursements will be available in the form of a dollar-for-dollar tax credit on employers’ quarterly tax form and there may be advance funds available to businesses concerned about their cash flows. Please consult with your tax professional for questions.

You do not need to reinvent the wheel each time a new COVID-19 policy is released or changed. Simply add it on your existing policies as a temporary addendum and do your employees the service of clearly and simply outlining the differences/changes.

When applying this principal of remembering the basics, don't only focus on your FMLA and sick time policies, remember other policies such as your remote work and work travel policies. These are key policies which are affected by COVID-19. Ensure the interim COVID-19 adjustment documents to the original policies are available and that the newly required FFCRA posting is clearly visible.

They key is to make it clear to your staff what accommodations can be made to existing policies and what options they have during these times.

As is the case with all employment actions in normal life, consistency is key to avoiding claims of discrimination, employment disputes, and high turnover. Workplace policies addressing COVID-19 should be applied equally to all employees - not favoring any gender, nationality or other protected class. For layoffs, establish clear parameters for who will be chosen prior to any layoff action to ensure consistency and sound reasoning for the changes. These hints reinforce best practice anytime, not only during these tough economic times. Stay tuned for a future blog post for managing layoffs, furloughs, and terminations.

Disclaimers:

Information enclosed in this blog post is not all inclusive. It is meant to simplify and highlight a few of the key pieces of the FFCRA. I have included some links below which provide full details. I encourage you to read and understand the full provisions of the FFCRA to ensure you are aware of how it applies to your business.

Your reading of this article does not create a consultant-client relationship between us. The enclosed information is to the best of my knowledge and resources. Please refer to specific federal and state websites/resources for complete details and for additional information. This article should not be seen as legal advice. You should consult with your own attorney on any legal matters, including confirmation of the existence and impact of any state, federal, or local laws and regulations, regardless of what is included/mentioned/described in this blog