There is much debate about what is to come as the end of 2020 draws near. Certainly we all hope for good news on the medical front with steady progress being made towards vaccines and treatments. But the impact of COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on other parts of our lives, including our workplaces. State and local governments continue to debate the appropriate level of restrictions. The CDC continues to update its guidance as the science continually evolves on this new virus. Employers continue to make the best decisions they can.
One of the laws that passed in March 2020 that impacted employers was the Families First Coronavirus Response Acts (FFCRA). The FFCRA generally applies to private employers employing fewer than 500 employees and to public employers. It provides for paid leave for COVID-19 related events; up to 80 hours for six COVID-19 related categories and up to an additional 10 weeks for leave when employees have no childcare/school for their child(ren) due to COVID-19. The Department of Labor is charged with investigations and enforcement. (You can check your poster or consult legal counsel for the many nuances of this law.)
As was true of virtually everything about COVID-19 in March, the FFCRA was enacted quickly and then underwent many changes. But one thing has not (yet) changed and seems unlikely to change at this point. The FFCRA applies only to leave taken between April 1 and December 31, 2020.
What does this mean? Assuming Congress and the President do nothing regarding this before December 31, consider the following:
1. Now would be a good time to look back over the absences that have occurred from April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020 (the effective period of the law). Did you properly permit and pay for absences covered by the FFCRA? If you did not, consider fixing it now before year end.
2. The FFCRA provides that amounts properly paid under the FFCRA would be reimbursed by the federal government through tax credits. Now is the time to ensure your business has done what it needs to do to take advantage of the tax credits.
3. It is unlawful to discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against an employee who takes leave under the FFCRA or who pursues their rights under the FFCRA.
We cannot know what 2021 will bring, but every employer covered by the FFCRA should take time in December of 2020 to review its compliance with this law and to maximize its use of the tax credits if applicable. Seek competent legal and/or tax advice as needed.
By Kristen L. Brightmire, firstname.lastname@example.org