Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA): COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Requirements
Author: XpertHR Editorial Team
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201 or FFCRA) was enacted as a temporary response to the COVID-19 pandemic and included the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA). Both the EPSLA and EFMLEA took effect April 1, 2020, and applied to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Congress declined to extend the FFCRA beyond December 30, 2020, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133). However, the Appropriations Act permitted employers to claim the tax credit if they voluntarily provided emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave from January 1 through March 31, 2021. The ability to claim the payroll tax credit for voluntarily offering leave was further extended to September 30, 2021, by the American Rescue Plan Act. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) also amended various provisions under the FFCRA for tax credit purposes, effective April 1, 2021, including:
- Providing additional qualifying reasons for leave;
- Increasing the credit limit for paid family leave;
- Adding tax credit discrimination protections; and
- Resetting the paid sick leave limit after March 31, 2021.
Even though the leave requirements under the FFCRA are no longer mandated, covered employers should be aware of their continuing compliance obligations under the recordkeeping and anti-retaliation provisions of the FFCRA that extend beyond December 31.
In addition, although the FFCRA has expired, employers that voluntarily continue to provide leave and seek the related tax credits must do so under the FFCRA framework. This includes the following laws, regulations and guidance, which are incorporated below:
- Department of Labor (DOL) regulations on the FFCRA;
- DOL revised regulations (effective September 16, 2020) that were published in response to the New York federal district court ruling striking down the following portions of the FFCRA regulations: the work-availability requirement; the definition of health care provider; restrictions on intermittent leave; and employee documentation requirements. See New York v. United States DOL, +2020 US Dist. LEXIS 137116;
- DOL guidance explaining the FFCRA's paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements, which includes a Fact Sheet on FFCRA Employer Paid Leave Requirements and FFCRA Questions and Answers (Q&As); and
- Applicable provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that amended the FFCRA.
Employers need to be aware that the Fact Sheet and Q&As do not have the force of law. However, they do express the enforcement agency's interpretation of employers' obligations under the law. Note that the regulations and Q&A's have not yet been updated to account for the amendments effective April 1, 2021.