3.19.20 – A run-down of H.R. 6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Note: SDEA is a not-for profit employer’s association providing HR advice and consulting to its clients to promote and facilitate productive employer/employee relationships. SDEA’s proven HR consultants are not attorneys and do not render legal advice
You have some breathing room
The bill states that “this act shall take effect not later than 15 days after the date of enactment”. That would be April 1, 2020 assuming March 18, the date that the bill was signed by the President, is considered the date of enactment. The language suggests that it could take effect sooner, but that seems unlikely. The language may also be implying that if an employer chooses to act sooner, they can, but it’s not clear if the tax credits would apply.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave – EPSL
This act provides up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time employees, and average hours worked over a two week period for part-time employees, who are unable to work, or telework, due to the following circumstances:
1) The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19.
2) The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19.
3) The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
4) The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in subparagraph (1) or has been advised as described in paragraph (2).
5) The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions.
6) The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
EPSL is effective immediately upon hire. EPSL is considered separate from the Paid Sick Leave employers are providing due to state and local mandates. Employers are not allowed to require employees to use any other previously accrued sick, vacation, or PTO time. As the bill is written right now, EPSL will not carry over beyond December 31, 2020.
EPSL is paid at the employees regular rate of pay, not to exceed $511/day or $5,110 in total, for employee’s under mandated quarantines, health care professional advised quarantines, and/or when an employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical diagnosis.
EPSL is paid at no less than 2/3 of the regular rate of pay, not to exceed $200/day or $2,000 in total, for employees caring for individuals who are under mandated quarantine, health care professional advised quarantines, and or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical diagnosis, and/or if an employee is caring for their own child because the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider of the child is unavailable due to COVID-19.
Any retaliation against an employee who utilizes this leave is prohibited.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion – EFMLA
EFMLA would go into effect after the EPSL and provides for up to 12 weeks of job protected leave, paid at a rate of no less than 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay, not to exceed $200/day or $10,000 aggregate for conditions 1-6 in the EPSL Act. Like standard FMLA, medical benefits would need to be maintained to the same degree as before the leave was taken. Employers with less than 25 employees will not be required to reinstate employees if the job no longer exists due to economic conditions.
Reimbursement for Employers in the form of tax credits
Employers will be allowed a tax credit against quarterly payroll taxes in an amount equal to 100% of the EPSL and EFMLA wages paid by the employer in that calendar quarter. There is also a provision for credit for an employer’s qualified health plan expenses, but the amount is not stated in the bill.
What is not answered
The bill does not address if any medical certification is required by the employer to receive the tax credit, nor if an employer is allowed to require medical certification from their employees.
It is likely that clarifications, and possibly modifications, to the bill will be released between now and the April 6 enactment date. We will keep our members updated as the story unfolds.