The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which took effect on April 1, 2020, mandated in part that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees unable to work due to certain interruptions imposed by COVID-19. Mandatory FFCRA compliance ends on December 31, 2020, but the stimulus bill signed on December 27, 2020 provides certain extensions of importance to employers.
Although the FFCRA is no longer mandatory as of January 1, 2021, covered employers may elect to provide continued FFCRA leave benefits to employees from December 31, 2020, until March 31, 2021. For employers that elect to extend the FFCRA paid sick leave benefit, they may continue to claim the applicable FFCRA tax credit for the costs incurred with such leave.
Importantly, although extending employers the option to provide FFCRA leave and receive the applicable tax credit, the FFCRA extension does not increase an employee’s allocated 80 hours of paid sick time per the FFCRA. In other words, the stimulus bill extends the cut-off date for covered employers choosing to offer the FFCRA extension from December 31, 2020, until March 31, 2021; however, if an employee has used any or all of his/her FFCRA paid sick leave, then he/she will not receive any additional hours of paid sick leave just because of the start of the new calendar year. All that an employee would have available through March 31, 2021 is the remaining balance of his/her 80 hours of paid sick leave available per the FFCRA.
When considering and administering an employee’s leave due to COVID-19, employers must also consider all other applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, New Jersey Family Leave Act, and state paid sick leave entitlements. An employer should consult with its employment law attorney to discuss the specific facts and company policies as well as the laws applicable to the business to ensure compliance.