Employers’ Obligations Under the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” — What Massachusetts Employers Need to Know

| Apr 16, 2020 | Massachusetts Employment

 

The “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (“FFCRA”) signed by President Trump March 18, 2020 becomes effective April 1, 2020.

The new law requires all private sector employers (with fewer than 500 employees) to provide to all employees (employed at least 30 calendar days): (I) Paid Sick Leave; and (II) Paid Family and Medical Leave, for reasons related to the COVID-19 virus.

1. PAID SICK LEAVE

Employers must immediately make available 80 hours of paid sick leave for all full-time employees (or the average number of hours over 2 weeks for part-time employees) for any of the following reasons:

  1. Employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order.
  2. Employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine.
  3. Employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  4. Employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or
  5. Employee who is caring for their son or daughter (under age 18) if the child’s school or place of care has been closed.

Pay During Sick Leave

Paid sick leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate for reasons 1, 2, or 3 above, and two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate for reasons 4 or 5. Paid leave is capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate for reasons 1, 2, or 3 above, and $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate for reasons 4 or 5.

Is Paid Sick Leave In Addition To Paid Leave or PTO Already Provided By The Employer?

Yes.  An employer may not require an employee to use other paid leave before using paid sick leave under the new law. The leaves would run consecutively, not concurrently.

2.  PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE

Employers must provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to employees who are unable to work, or work from home, due to the need to care for a son or daughter (under age 18) whose school or place of care has been closed due to a “public health emergency” related to COVID-19.

Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption in cases where these requirements threaten the ability of the business to continue. The Department of Labor will soon issue guidance explaining how an employer qualifies for this exemption.

Pay During Family and Medical Leave

When leave is needed due to school or day care closure, the employer may provide the first 10 days of leave without pay.  Subsequent days of leave for this reason must be paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay.  Pay during family and medical leave is capped at $200 a day and $10,000 in the aggregate.

When the first 10 days are unpaid, employees may elect to substitute accrued vacation leave, personal leave or sick leave for the unpaid leave.

Requirements of Both Paid Sick Leave and Family Leave.

Both Sick Leave and Family Medical Leave Are Job Protected

After leave, the employee must be returned to the same or similar position except (for employers with fewer than 25 employees) if the employee’s position no longer exists due to economic conditions or changes in the employer’s operations caused by the public health crisis.

What Notice Must Employees Provide For Sick Leave or Family Medical Leave?

Employees must provide employers with “notice of leave as is practicable.” An employer cannot require a notice for the first day of paid sick leave.  After the first day, employers can require employees to follow reasonable notice procedures to continue to receive paid sick time.

Who Pays For Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family and Medical Leave?

Employers must pay for these benefits. However, employers will be eligible for a tax credit of 100% of the amount paid to employees under this new law.

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Please call Kevin Callanan (781-878-1604) or Christopher Callanan (617-330-7575) with questions about your obligations under this new law. You can also reach our firm at 617-849-9900.

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