Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

Now that offices are starting to open, we wanted to provide additional guidance on the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  In a prior blog, we referenced employers with under 50 employees being able to document that they are exempt from providing the additional 10 weeks of FMLA leave. However, under FFCRA, employers with under 50 employees are still required to provide their employees with paid sick leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. This rule will impact most dental practices.

We want you to first understand how much paid leave may be available to qualifying employees. This leave is available to employees from the time you opened the office up.  They did not qualify for leave during the closure.  Generally, the Act provides that covered employers must provide to all employees:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

Please note that while full time employees may receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave (if they work 40 hours per week), part time employees are entitled to a pro rata number of hours based on hours worked over two work weeks. If, for example, a part-time employee works 15 hours per week, this team member would be eligible for up to 30 hours of paid sick leave.

It is also important to note that medical health care providers may be exempted from Paid Sick Leave by their employer under FFCRA. A health care provider is any medical doctor’s office, hospital, health care center or clinic.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave for paid sick time:

Next, we want to step through qualifying reasons for paid sick leave. Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.

As mentioned in a prior blog, there are caps to how much can be paid for sick leave.  For reasons 1, 2, and 3, the daily rate of pay is capped at $511. The two-week cap is $5,111.  For reasons 4 and 5, the daily cap is $200, and the total cap for the two-week period of leave is $2,000. If, for example, you have a full-time employee who is unable to work because she is caring for a child due to a COVID-related daycare closure (reason 5), she is eligible for paid sick leave of up to $200 per day and $2,000 over the two-week period.

Can an Employee Take Intermittent Leave?

The Act does not permit intermittent leave unless there is a written agreement between the employer and employee. Intermittent leave can only be used for childcare (reason 5).  For example, you may have an employee who can return to work, but she can only work reduced hours because childcare is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. If the employer and employee have a written agreement that permits intermittent leave for this situation, the employee can receive paid sick leave for the missed hours of work.

What to Do When an Employee Requests Leave

If you have an employee request leave under FFCRA, we recommend you have them fill out a leave request form.

Payroll Tax Credits Offset the Cost

Covered employers qualify for dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through payroll tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under FFCRA. Qualifying wages are those paid to an employee who takes leave under the Act for a qualifying reason, up to the appropriate per diem and aggregate payment caps mentioned previously. Applicable tax credits also extend to amounts paid or incurred to maintain health insurance coverage. When reporting payroll to your payroll provider, please make sure to specify hours for FFCRA so they have that information for the tax credit.

If you are paying for FFCRA leave with PPP loan money the payroll tax credits are not available.  You will still want to track leave hours.

Also, if you have not already done so you should post a notice in your office regarding FFCRA.

Please reach out to our office with any questions about how paid sick leave through FFCRA applies to you.

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