The Covid-19 pandemic brought numerous changes in all aspects of life. The Human Resource department was greatly impacted. Companies were forced to revise their HR guidelines for employees to cope with the impact of the pandemic. As a result, Congress signed into law the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) on March 18, 2020. However, recently Congress amended the 2020 FFCRA bringing forth new 2021 leave provisions.
Understanding the FFCRA 2021 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Rules
The introduction of the FFCRA provided for emergency paid leave requests arising from Covid-19 related reasons. The law stipulated that private and some public companies with under 500 employees can offer two types of leave; the EFMLEA (Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act) and the EPSLA (Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act).
Both laws expired on December 31, 2020. Congress did not re-enforce the EFMLEA or FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act).
Currently, through the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), employers can still honor FFCRA. The CAA allows employees to proceed on paid leave as stipulated in FFCRA. As a result, the federal government still provides full reimbursement to the employers through a refund or tax credits until March 31, 2021.
Employers taking advantage of the extended tax-credit should also be aware of the following:
- The sick paid leave terms remain the same.
- Leave taken in 2020 under the EFMLEA was counted against the federal entitlement, but days taken in 2021 under the voluntary FFCRA will not be counted against an employee’s federal EFMLA entitlement.
- If an employee uses all their FFCRA leave hours or days by March 31, 2021, then the federal government will not reimburse tax credits or refund for paid leave taken in quarter one of 2021.
- Employers will be required to provide documentation for the 2021 FFCRA paid leave to claim for refund or tax credits reimbursement.
- An employee qualifies for family and paid sick leave if they have vaccine appointments or if they develop complications after vaccination.
- The family paid leave credit limit was increased to $12,000.
- Initially, the self-employed had a family leave entitlement of 50 days. However, CAA increased the period to 60 days.
- Federal workers can take up to 15 days of paid leave (for themselves or a family member) because of Covid-19 related reasons.
- The FFCRA 2021 sick leave law stipulates that employers should provide leave without discrimination to qualify for a tax credit.
Consequences of Non-Compliance
Qualified employers are still bound by the 2021 FFCRA. Although Congress made some adjustments to the 2020 FFCRA, the penalties for non-compliance are still intact.
The Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hours Division is tasked with enforcing the FFCRA. Employees are allowed to report employers who infringe their rights as provided in the Family First Coronavirus Response Act.
If found negligent, there are two consequences:
- Employers get penalized as stipulated in the amended Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This happens when there is unlawful termination of FFCRA provisions or violation of the first 2 weeks of paid sick leave.
- Employers can face penalties for infringing the additional 10 weeks of a paid leave request. The Family Medical Leave Act gives an outline of the provisions.
Generally speaking, employers are liable for monetary penalties, attorney’s fees, interest, unpaid wages, and damages, or an order inhibiting the continued operations of a business. Also, an employee can file a lawsuit against their employer.
Employers’ Safety Precautions
To avoid penalties, employers should update their employees leave-related documentation. It is also advisable to monitor updates from DOL and act accordingly.