On Sunday, December 27, 2020, President Trump signed COVID-19 relief legislation providing government funding and a long-anticipated coronavirus relief package. The wide-sweeping legislation contains the answer to the question employers have been asking for weeks—do Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) benefits end on December 31, 2020? In short—yes. Davenport Evans Employment Lawyer Jean Bender explains.
- The bill does not extend the mandates of the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (“EFMLEA”) or the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (“EPSLA”) enacted under FFCRA beyond December 31, 2020.
- The bill provides tax credits to employers who voluntarily provide “FFCRA-like” paid leave benefits to employees through March 31, 2021.
FFCRA provided up to 80 hours of paid sick and family leave under the EPSLA along with up to 10 weeks of partially paid family and medical leave under the EFMLEA to eligible employees who were unable to work because of certain COVID-19-related reasons. For private employers, the requirement to provide these paid FFCRA leaves was offset by dollar-for-dollar tax credits for wages paid to employees taking paid leave. These FFCRA provisions are scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020, and the new legislation does not contain an extension of these provisions.
However, the bill does allow private employers the opportunity to claim dollar-for-dollar tax credits on wages paid to employees taking leave consistent with the existing FFCRA framework between January 1 and March 31, 2021, under the employer’s paid leave policy. In effect, the paid leave provisions of FFCRA will be optional after December 31, 2020. The tax credits are available through March 31, 2021, provided the employer paid leave is available as would be required if FFCRA were in effect.
Employers subject to FFCRA will need to evaluate their options for 2021 and decide on an approach that best suits their individual circumstances. Employers who choose not to provide these optional “FFCRA-like” benefits should reevaluate how their normal leave policies apply to employees on leave due to COVID-19 related issues. These employees may be eligible for unpaid leave under FMLA. If FMLA does not apply, employers need to evaluate whether unpaid leave is required as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith, LLP, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of the State’s largest law firms. The firm’s attorneys provide business and litigation counsel to individuals and corporate clients in a variety of practice areas. For more information about Davenport Evans, visit www.dehs.com.