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Breaking down the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for small business owners

Is your small business familiar with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)? According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, certain employers must provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

Small business owners may have questions around the FFCRA, like: 

  • How do employees determine their eligibility under the Act and what do they receive? 
  • What specific reasons qualify for COVID-19 leave? 
  • Are any small businesses exempt from FFCRA, depending on the number of employees they have employed at their workplace?

To date, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act has a total of 97 questions with answers provided by the U.S. Department of Labor. While this post will not be quite as in-depth, it will provide basic information for small businesses trying to understand how FFCRA works.

What is FFCRA?

FFCRA is an abbreviation for Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It is also referred to as “Act.” This is a new law administered and enforced by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. FFCRA requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 specified reasons.

Those eligible for FFCRA will receive up to two weeks of paid sick leave from employers covered under the Act. Paid sick leave must be paid out based on the employee’s regular rate of pay. If covered employers cannot pay that amount, then they must use the applicable state or Federal minimum wage. Paid sick leave must come out to 80 hours. A two-week equivalent is provided for part-time employees.

In this video, we talked to Elizabeth Milito, Senior Executive Counsel at NFIB about the FFCRA and what it means for small businesses: 

Who is eligible for FFCRA?

Eligible employees for FFCRA include employees at private sector and certain public sector employers. Private sector employers must have fewer than 500 employees, including full- and part-time employees. All employees must be based out of the United States or any Territory or possession of the United States. Remember that when counting employees, the final number should include any employees currently on leave, temporary employees, and any day laborers that may be from a temporary agency. A worker classified as an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) would not be eligible for FFCRA.

Please note that employees that wish to expand their leave request to include family and medical leave must be employed with their covered employer for a minimum of 30 days. This is 30 calendar days. The employer must also place the employee on their payroll. Then, the employee may place this request.

What is a covered employer?

An employer that employs less than 500 employees, and provides paid sick leave as well as expanded family and medical leave, is considered a covered employer. There are certain employers with less than 50 employees that may be exempt from FFCRA. We’ll discuss more about these small businesses, and their exemptions, momentarily.

What are qualifying reasons for leave related to COVID-19?

An employee may count the following qualifying reasons as a means for paid leave related to COVID-19. This is true for employees unable to work in a physical workplace or telework.

  • The employee is subject to a local, state, or federal order to quarantine or self-isolate related to COVID-19.
  • The employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19.
  • The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • The employee is caring for an individual that may be self-quarantining. This individual may also be a child whose school or childcare facility is currently closed. Care for the child must be for reasons related to COVID-19.

What documents should employees provide employers for FFCRA?

In order to request paid sick leave related to COVID-19, your employer must receive the following information. This may be in writing or presented orally.

  • The name of the employee.
  • Date(s) for requesting leave.
  • Reason for leave.
  • A statement that the employee is unable to work due to this reason.
  • The name of the government entity that issued you to self-quarantine or self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19. If a healthcare provider advised you to self-quarantine, you must be able to provide their name when requesting leave.

How is paid leave calculated?

As mentioned above, eligible employees that receive up to two weeks of paid sick leave are paid out based on the employee’s regular rate of pay. Applicable state or federal minimum wage may be used to pay employees if covered employers are unable to meet specific salary amounts.

Are any employers exempt from FFCRA?

Certain employers that have fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from FFCRA’s requirements to provide certain paid sick leave. These employers include religious or nonprofit organizations. In addition to being unable to provide paid sick leave, they may also be unable to provide expanded family and medical leave to employees. Typically, this is due to the provision of said leave resulting in the company’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues.

A business that employs more than 500 employees is not considered to be a covered employer.

What happens to FFCRA when employees return to work?

Paid leave requirements under FFCRA are effective from April 1, 2020, until December 31, 2020. Many small businesses are hopeful their states will phase toward stages that allow them to safely reopen by this date.The best way to keep up with additional, relevant information as it pertains to FFCRA and continuing COVID-19 coverage is to visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s website to learn more.

Check out OpenWeStand‘s Resources page for more articles, advice, and strategies small businesses can use to get through these tough times.