The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires employers with less than 500 employees to provide employees with 80 hours of paid sick leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. In addition, employers are required to provide up to 10 weeks of paid, job-protected leave for employees who have worked for their employer for at least 30 days and who are unable to work due to the need to care for a son or daughter whose school is closed or the unavailability of a childcare provider due to COVID-19. The legislation was due to sunset on December 31, 2020.
President Trump signed a relief bill into law on December 27, 2020. While the full FFCRA law was not extended into 2021, employers can now elect to continue allowing employees to take unused FFCRA paid sick and family leave and receive the federal tax credit for through March 31, 2021.
Employer Action Items
- Decide whether to offer continued paid sick leave and paid family leave until March 31, 2021.
- Communicate corporate decision and any process requirements to employees.
- Confirm any state or local laws that impact decision.
Optional, Not Mandatory
Employers are not required to provide paid leave after December 31, 2020 (as was the case under the FFCRA through December 31, 2020). However, as of January 1, 2021, employers may voluntarily offer such leaves and may continue to take the same payroll tax credit as was previously afforded under the FFCRA.
The relief package does not change the qualifying reasons for which employees may take leave, the caps on the amount of pay employees are entitled to receive, or the FFCRA’s documentation requirements.
Same Pool of 80 Hours
The law also does not change the amount of leave that employees are entitled to take under the FFCRA. Under the FFCRA, full time employees are entitled to a one-time allotment of 80 hours of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of expanded family medical leave. Therefore, an employer is generally not entitled to a second tax credit for an employee taking leave in 2021, if that employee exhausted FFCRA leave in 2020.
Despite the fact that employers are no longer required to provide FFCRA leave after the first of the year, employers should be mindful that some states and local governments have enacted COVID-19 leave laws, which may or may not expire at the end of the year. For example:
- New York: The quarantine leave law requires that New York employers provide job-protected sick leave to employees who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation. This does not expire at the end of the year.
- Colorado: The state-specific COVID-19 leave law sunsets on December 31, 2020. The state paid sick leave program begins phasing in on January 1, 2021.
- California: The COVID-19 leave law expires on December 31, 2020 or upon the expiration of the paid sick leave provisions of the FFCRA. Although the federal relief bill allows employers to claim a tax credit for paid sick leave provided into 2021, it does not appear to change the expiration date of the specific paid sick leave provisions of the FFCRA. Therefore, unless the state amends the law or issues guidance to the contrary, California’s leave law will likely expire at the end of the year. However, unlike the federal FFCRA, the California law allows an employee who is on leave on the date that the law expires to complete their leave, even if this extends the leave period past the law’s expiration date.