In unprecedented rapid succession, House Bill 6201 (also known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act) was passed by House of Representatives on March 13, the Senate on March 18, and signed into effect by the President on March 18. Effective on April 1, this bill will provide for paid emergency sick leave, expanded leave protections, enhanced unemployment benefits, and free testing for those adversely affected by COVID-19.
The following summarizes the three biggest components to the Families First Act:
- Paid Sick Leave – Qualifying employers (private sector employers with less than 500 employees and all government employers) will be required to pay for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave (prorated based on average hours worked over a 2 week period) benefits to employees who have been impacted by COVID-19 (for reasons such as being required to stay home or when it has been advised to self-quarantine, when they are exhibiting symptoms, are caring for someone who is in quarantine or isolation, or for those who have children who’s schools or childcare facilities are closed or a caregiver is unavailable during this health emergency).
Employers with less than 50 employees may be exempt from this mandate, particularly if the “viability of the business” would be in jeopardy as a result of providing this benefit.
- Paid Family Leave – Private sector employers with less than 500 employees and government employers are required to provide up to 12 weeks of paid Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) to employees who have worked more than 30 calendar days to care for children when schools are closed or childcare facilities are unavailable or when they are unable to work remotely.
After 10 days (2 weeks, or 80 hours) of leave that would satisfy the paid sick leave requirement outlined above, eligible employees will receive 2/3 of their regular rate of pay.
Private employers with less than 50 or more than 500 employees are exempt from this mandate.
- Unemployment Benefits – The federal government is encouraging all states to be more flexible with eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits. They are projected to provide $1 billion in additional funding to provide UI benefits to affected employees, and states have been authorized to extend the provision of benefits beyond the standard 26 weeks of payment.
The Department of Labor is actively working on finalizing the specifics to each of these components of the bill, specifically regulations that would assist small employers in navigating through this process, particularly if they are exempt from these mandates.
Nearly every organization has been adversely impacted by this national health emergency. We are actively working with our clients and colleagues to assist in answering questions regarding the employment status of their workers, modifying sick leave and time off policies, and providing any assistance as needed as we work through this situation. There are countless additional exceptions, provisions, and factors to consider when applying these mandates to specific businesses. For additional information regarding how this bill affects your organization personally, please contact us for a consultation and guidance.
We will keep all of our clients personally updated as additional regulations are finalized. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding House Bill 6201, its provisions, and how to implement these new protocols within your organization.
We are all in this together and wish you all health and safety during this time.