When the #Coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. earlier this spring, few working parents could have predicted that we would still be facing school closures today. But now, with many states seeing daily surges in case numbers, there are limited in-classroom schedules and day-care capacity. Schools are opening at different rates, with delayed start dates, and are using remote or distance virtual learning, in-person teaching with social distancing guidelines, or a mixture of the two.
This means that parents will need to be home with their children for the foreseeable future. And this creates a stressful burden and anxiety on both parents and caregivers to make a difficult choice of looking after their child and earning a valuable paycheck in a fragile economy. To help ease the stress of working parents with school-age children, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is federal legislation that provides qualified employees with paid sick expanded family or medical leave. We’ll explore the specifics below, see if you qualify, and how this can help you and your family during this critical time.
What is the FFCRA?
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires specific employers to provide eligible and approved employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19.
It was passed into law in March and is effective until December 31, 2020. If you are currently affected by your child’s school or daycare closures, make sure to take the necessary steps as soon as possible. This is a time-sensitive program.
Duration Of Leave:
Full-Time Employees: A full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave as follows:
Two weeks of paid sick leave (up to 80 hours)
Followed by up to 10 weeks of paid expanded family & medical leave at 40 hours a week.
Part-Time Employees: A part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.
Calculation of Pay:
- Employees approved for leave qualify for pay at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $12,000 in the aggregate (over a 12-week period).
The FFCRA includes the requirement to provide emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for 12 weeks (of which 10 weeks must be paid) as an amendment to the current FMLA.
Does the FFCRA apply to my company?
The FFCRA applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees as well as certain governmental entities.
In order to determine whether your business or company is covered, your employer must count the total number of employees working at the requested date of your proposed leave. If there are fewer than 500 employees, the FFCRA applies to the business and it must provide the benefits passes under the new law.
For accuracy, all businesses must include in their count:
Full-time and part-time employees within the United States.
Employees currently on leave. (paid, sick, short-term disability, long-term disability, etc.)
Temporary employees who are employed by the business and another employer (regardless of whether the jointly employed employees are maintained on only the business’s or another employer’s payroll).
Day laborers supplied by a temporary agency (regardless of whether the business is the temporary agency or the client firm if there is a continuing employment relationship).
Workers who are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rather than employees are not considered employees for purposes of the 500-employee threshold.
If you work for a global or international company, it’s important to remember that the 500 employee count and cap only applies to individuals working in the United States—including all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and any territory or possession of the United States.
If you know that your company is close or near to 500 employees, make sure to talk directly with your Human Resources department, direct manager, or supervisor. They should be able to provide answers or point you to someone who can confirm whether you are eligible to apply for this coverage and guide you through the process.
There are also additional restrictions for small companies with less than 50 total employees, so it is important to be communicative and we always encourage you to ask for clarity.
Am I eligible?
All employees of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of paid sick time when they are caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19. Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19.
If you are currently working remotely, you are not eligible to receive extended leave under this legislation. Also, if you are currently on a paid of extended leave as covered by the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you are not eligible. This new emergency expansion went into effect on April 1, 2020 and anyone on leave before then will not be approved.
How do I know if I qualify?
Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) because the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is physically closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.
If you do select and are approved to take a leave of absence covered by the FFCRA, it’s best to notify your manager or employer with written documentation. Keep track of all your correspondence.
If you do request to take an extended leave you must provide your employer with:
The name of your child;
The name of the school, place of care, or child care provider that has closed or become unavailable; and
A statement that no other suitable person is available to care for your child.
After the first workday of paid sick time, your manager or supervisor may follow-up with you and ask to provide continued documentation that shows that your child’s school or childcare options are still physically closed.
Other Important Notes About The FFCRA
You can take the expanded 12 weeks intermittently.
But only with your employer’s permission and should only be used after you and your employer agree to a set schedule. This is extremely helpful for parents whose children are attending in-person instruction two or three days a week, and remote learning the other days. As always, make sure to speak your direct manager or supervisor and communicate any changes in your child’s schedule as soon as possible.
You may not collect unemployment insurance or benefits while you receive expanded family or medical leave.
Your health insurance coverage continues.
If enrolled in family coverage, your health insurance coverage will not change during the duration of your leave.
You will be required to make normal contributions.
In general, employers are not legally required to accommodate their employee’s child care needs. It is important to remember that this legislation only applies to certain (and generally smaller) companies. We always encourage you to directly discuss with your HR department or your direct manager if you have any additional questions or need clarification.
We know it must be challenging to be a parent, employee, and juggle your child’s education and health; we are here to support you with resources to help.