Employers Can Voluntarily Extend FFCRA Benefits Through March 31, 2021
As discussed in our prior alert, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) was enacted April 1, 2020 and required certain employers to provide eligible employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons. By its terms, the FFCRA benefits expired on December 31, 2020.
Amidst the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases throughout the nation, on December 27, 2020, President Trump signed a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill. In addition to the economic stimulus provisions, that relief bill answered a pressing question that many employers had regarding their FFCRA obligations in the new year. Specifically, are employers required to provide FFCRA emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave benefits after December 31, 2020? In short, the answer is no – the stimulus bill does not extend the paid sick or family leave mandates contained in the FFCRA. However, eligible employers may voluntarily provide FFCRA leave benefits to qualified employees and can claim employer tax credits through March 31, 2021. With respect to the FFCRA, the key takeaways from the recently passed stimulus bill include the following:
- Beginning January 1, 2021, employers will no longer be required to provide FFCRA leave benefits to qualified employees.
- However, private employers with less than 500 employees (“Covered Employers”) may voluntarily provide FFCRA leave benefits to employees.
- Covered Employers who choose to provide paid FFCRA leave may still claim a refundable tax credit for the cost of providing this paid leave to employees through March 31, 2021.
- Public employers are ineligible for these FFCRA tax credits as of January 1, 2021.
- Employees’ FFCRA leave banks do not replenish in 2021. Even if employers provide leave benefits on a calendar year basis, employees who exhausted their FFCRA leave in 2020 are not entitled to additional FFCRA leave in 2021. Employers may, however, choose to permit employees to carry over any unused FFCRA leave from 2020.
Notably, some states, including New Jersey and New York, now have mandatory sick leave laws requiring employers to provide leave benefits for COVID-19 related reasons. Unlike the FFCRA, these state laws do not sunset on December 31, 2020. As such, employers should also consider where these laws entitle employees to leave and consult counsel as to requirements under any state and/or local laws.
Importantly, employers should immediately decide whether they want to voluntarily provide FFCRA leave benefits from January 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021. Employers should then review and update their policies and procedures and prepare to respond to and accommodate employee questions or requests related to the leaves of absences precipitated by the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
If you have any questions about implementing policies relating to leaves for COVID-19 related reasons and/or responding to employee concerns, please feel free to reach out to your CSG attorney or the authors listed here.
For additional information pertaining to the coronavirus outbreak, please visit CSG’s COVID-19 Resource Center.
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