Extended – COVID Paid Leave Benefits
COVID paid leave benefits for employees extended … kind of.
As Americans anxiously await an update on the status of the next stimulus package, many employers have been asking the Employment Law Attorneys at Klenda Austerman what the ongoing economic relief efforts mean for employees who will need time off due to COVID after the first of the year.
With paid time off benefits under the Families First Corona Virus Response Act (FFCRA) set to expire on December 31, 2020 there has been little discussion about whether an extension of those benefits are contained in the new pending legislation, until now. As noted in The National Law Review article, there are five pages in the 5600 page bill that allow employers to continue to receive the tax reprieve of paying such benefits if they voluntarily opt to continue to offer the paid sick leave as outlined in the original FFCRA.
Here are a few important bullet points to keep in mind about the extension of these benefits:
- The continuation of the FFCRA paid leave benefits is completely optional for employers, and no longer mandatory after December 31, 2020. If employers choose to continue those benefits, they will receive tax credits for those payment through March 31, 2021.
- The amount of leave available for employees does not “refresh”, so if an employee has already exhausted all the FFCRA paid leave benefits, they are still out of COVID paid leave. Employees can still take time off using personal sick leave, vacation or other paid benefit offered by the employer consistent with the employer’s policies.
- Employers do not have to uniformly allow all employees to have access to the extended paid leave benefits. If the employer has a legitimate, non-discriminatory basis for excluding an employee or group of employees from access to the extended paid benefit, while allowing it for others (such as extreme hardship to the employer), it may do so. Employers are cautioned to consult legal counsel if such a policy is implemented to assure no other fair labor laws are violated in the process.
- Employers must continue to gather all necessary forms and paperwork for employees seeking paid COVID leave. This process continues to protect the employer in the event of a future financial audit.
- Employers extending paid leave benefits into 2021 should continue to follow all required return to work procedures in place during 2020, including compliance with local, state and federal quarantine guidelines and restrictions.
If you have general questions about FFCRA or the impact of the new legislation of your company’s policies and procedures, reach out to Michelle Brenwald at firstname.lastname@example.org