It’s no secret that the Coronavirus pandemic has caused several unexpected changes to businesses. And it can be tough to keep up with the new laws and regulations concerning this topic. In some cases, you can take legal action if your employer hasn’t followed the new guidelines. So, it’s important to stay informed and protect your rights.
The new Families First Coronavirus Response Act will have a substantial impact on FMLA and sick leave for employees and employers in 2020. The new law began on April 1st, 2020, and ends December 31st, 2020. The FFCRA includes free coronavirus testing, budget increases for medical services, and food assistance. However, only a few of the aspects of the law are directly relevant to businesses.
These changes involve paid sick leave, changes to unemployment insurance, considerations for childcare, tax credits, and more. We’ll discuss these changes, in addition to what to do if your employer isn’t following the new rules, below.
How does the FFCRA Work?
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act. Until December 2020, if your employer has fewer than 500 employees, they must provide their employees with 10 weeks (or less) of paid FMLA. Employers may provide their employees with unpaid time off for the first 2 weeks of the regular 12-week FMLA period. However, you may receive payments through the paid leave you have available or another sick leave related provision.
FMLA Availability for Employees
You’ll receive paid FMLA if you’ve had your job for at least 30 days and are home caring for children who can’t attend school due to the current COVID-19 health emergency. To qualify, you must not be able to work (remotely or otherwise) while providing childcare.
Your employer is required to offer you 10 days’ worth of unpaid leave (or paid vacation or accrued paid leave). After this period, paid leave will begin and you must receive two-thirds of your normal rate of pay. Keep in mind that paid leave can’t be more than $200 daily and $10,000 total for 10 weeks.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
Another segment of the FFCRA that applies to businesses is changes to emergency paid sick leave. Until December 31st, 2020. Your employer (if they have fewer than 500 employees) must give paid sick leave to employees who meet specific criteria related to the COVID-19 emergency.
Employee Eligibility for Emergency Leave
Under FFCRA, you’re entitled to receive paid sick leave if you can’t work (either remotely or in-house) because you’re in local, state, or federal quarantine or COVID-19 related isolation. If your doctor advised you to self-quarantine due to the virus or you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and pursuing a medical diagnosis, you may also receive paid sick leave under the Act.
Those who are caring for a family member for the same reasons are also entitled to leave. If you’re caring for children whose caregiver is unavailable due to the health emergency, or who cannot attend school due to COVID-10 related closures, you may get paid sick leave.
How Payment is Calculated
If you’re a fulltime employee, you may get up to 80 hours of sick leave with pay. Part-time employees will be paid based on an average of the hours they’d typically work within a 2-week period. The amount of leave you get will depend on your reasons for eligibility. If you qualify because you’re experiencing symptoms of the virus and seeking a diagnosis, have received advice to self-quarantine from your doctor, or you’re in isolation or local, state, or federal quarantine, your sick leave will be capped at $511 daily and a total of $5,110.
If, however, you’re caring for a family member who is under a self-quarantine order or subject to self-quarantine, or you’re caring for children with an unavailable caregiver or closed schools due to COVID-19, you will receive two-thirds of your regular pay rate for sick leave. The amounts will not exceed $200 daily or $2,000 in total. You will receive emergency paid sick leave in addition to your existing paid time off or sick leave.
Exemptions to the New Sick Leave Laws
Businesses with under 50 employees might not have to meet the FFCRA requirements if they can show that offering paid sick time would leave them at risk of going out of business. In addition, businesses with more than 25 employees must reinstate employees after they get back from leave. Businesses with less than 25 employees, however, are exempt from this requirement.
Businesses with less than 50 employees are not subject to civil actions taken by their workers for violations involving FMLA emergency leave. In addition, emergency response and healthcare organizations don’t have to provide paid FMLA expansion related to the COVID-19 crisis.
FFCRA Unemployment Insurance Stabilization
The FFCRA will allocate $1 billion to state unemployment and offers state governments flexibility pertaining to employees who need unemployment insurance coverage. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act eliminates the 1-week waiting period for employees who are eligible for unemployment insurance.
Additionally, it will allow employees to apply for insurance faster, easing legal work search requirements. These new changes may affect how businesses make decisions regarding staff changes or layoffs related to the COVID-19 crisis.
What if Your Employer Refuses to Comply with Sick Leave Laws?
Just because there are laws in place doesn’t mean everyone will follow them. If your employer is covered by these changes to the law and refuses to pay you, you should speak with an employment law attorney. With adequate legal assistance, you can file a lawsuit against them directly. Our employment law attorneys are skilled at handling cases like yours. Contact us today to see how we can help.
Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.
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