On April 1, 2020, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced the passage of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). The FFCRA required employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide their eligible employees with emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19 – as discussed in our previous blog. However, these paid leave provisions expired on December 31, 2020.
The FFCRA helped mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in the workplace by reimbursing covered employers with tax credits for the cost of providing employees with paid leave taken for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The FFCRA enabled employers to keep their workers on their payroll, while at the same time ensuring that workers were not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.
In late December 2020, Congress agreed on a new $900 billion coronavirus relief bill (the “Bill”) that provided clarity as to whether the paid leave provisions under the FFRCA will extend into 2021. The current version of the legislation (signed by President Trump on December 27, 2020) results in the following:
Therefore, effective January 1, 2021, paid leave under the FFCRA will no longer be required. Covered employers who voluntarily provide paid leave benefits under the FFCRA through March 31, 2021, will remain eligible to receive tax credits for the paid leave. It should be noted, the Bill does not seem to provide a new set of tax credits or leave. In other words, if an employee has already taken 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave in 2020, then the employee would not be entitled to new emergency paid sick leave in 2021. With respect to the expanded family and medical leave provisions, presumably, if the employer’s 12-month period for FMLA resets under the employer’s policy, the employee would be entitled to paid FMLA again. It is not clear whether that was the DOL’s intent or whether future guidance will provide otherwise.
Although larger employers, with 500 or more employees, were not governed by the FFCRA, California enacted its own supplemental paid sick leave law (“CA SPSL”) to account for time off due to COVID-19-related reasons for such larger employers. In California, covered employers are required to provide SPSL to their eligible employees through: (i) December 31, 2020, or (ii) an extension of the FFCRA. It does not appear the paid leave provisions under the new federal Bill, given its voluntary nature, would constitute as an “extension.” Therefore, absent further guidance or a statutory extension of the CA SPSL by state lawmakers, it appears covered employers will no longer be required to provide paid sick leave under the CA SPSL to their eligible employees after December 31, 2020.
We will continue to monitor the situation and post updates as soon as more information is released. If you have any questions or would like guidance on how to proceed feel free to contact us.
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