When the FFCRA expires at the End of the Year, Employees Need to Know Their Options if They Get COVID-19 or Their Child’s School is Closed.
In April 2020, the federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The bill included the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act for people who had to quarantine due to COVID-19 or care for family members with COVID-19. It also included the Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. The Act provided up to 10 weeks of paid leave for parents whose children could not go to school or daycare due to Coronavirus.
Employers that use the FFCRA to pay employees under these circumstances would receive a refundable tax credit. The mandatory leave and employer tax credit expire on December 31, 2020.
As of December 21, 2020, the government did not extend the FFCRA as a mandatory benefit offered to employees. Employers may receive a tax credit through March 31, 2021, if they voluntarily pay employees for time off needed for COVID issues. However, the leave is not mandated. Furthermore, employees who already exhausted their leave cannot take additional leave under the voluntary extension.
What do you do if you need time off for COVID-19 or COVID-related issues? What happens if you used all the time already allotted to you? What happens if your employer refuses to voluntarily offer paid sick leave after the end of the year?
Even without FFCRA, employees may have the option to take time off for COVID and receive pay. Read on to learn about the options available to employees for paid time off for COVID-related issues.
Consider the Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) helps provide employees time off from work to care for a family member with a serious injury or illness. Employers with 50 or more employees must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for their employees.
The FMLA does not provide leave for employees for all the issues covered under the FFCRA. For instance, it does not provide paid time off. In addition, a school closing due to COVID is not considered an eligible reason to take FMLA leave.
However, the FMLA will provide job protection for employees who need to take a covered medical leave to care for a sick family member affected by COVID.
An employer who fires you for taking time off for a covered medical reason has committed wrongful termination. The FMLA prohibits an employer from denying a covered employee necessary leave. It also prohibits retaliation.
Check If Your State Provides Paid Family Leave for Employees
Some states provide paid family leave for individuals to care for themselves or their family members with a serious illness or injury. In these states, qualified employees can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks of paid leave.
The following states may offer paid family leave to employees caring for a family member exposed to COVID:
- New Jersey: The NJ Family Leave Act allows employees of companies with at least 30 people to take up to 12 weeks leave within 24 months to care for a family member or bond with a newborn baby. New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance can pay an employee during NJFLA Leave.
- New York: The New York Paid Family Leave will offer all employees of New York companies up to 12 weeks of paid leave, starting January 1, 2021. You can use the leave to care for a family member or bond with a newborn child.
- California: The California Paid Family Leave provides up to eight weeks of paid leave for all California employees. You can use the leave to care for family members as well as bond with a new child.
The family leave laws do not allow employees to take paid time off or themselves. However, after two weeks of time off, you may apply for temporary state disability leave. You may be eligible to receive a percentage of your pay to care for yourself if you need to take time off due to COVID.
Use Paid Sick Leave to Deal with COVID
Many states have enacted paid sick leave laws. Under the laws, companies must provide paid sick leave to all employees. Each state’s laws are different.
For instance, many states require full-time employees receive at least 40 hours of paid sick time. You can use the time only when sick or in the hospital.
Some states provide more sick leave to employees with 500 or more employees. Furthermore, part-time employees may only receive up to 15 or 20 hours of paid sick leave. Most states provide an hour of paid sick time for every forty hours worked.
Consider Use of Your Paid Time Off
Aside from paid sick leave, many employees receive paid time off (PTO). You have the right to use PTO for any reason necessary. Therefore, you may choose to use it if you or a family member are exposed to Coronavirus.
You may also use it to stay with your children in the event their schools are still closed. While it may only provide a week or two, you can use that time to also look for alternative options for childcare until schools and daycares reopen.
Ask Your Employer to Work from Home
In some cases, you may have the ability to work from home. If you are sick due to COVID, need to help care for a family member with COVID, or care for your child whose school is closed due to COVID, you may want to ask your employer for the ability to work from home.
While you may be sick, you may find it easier to work from home instead of going to the office. Furthermore, you will not get others sick by staying home.
If your boss will not let you work from home, maybe you can bring your child to work and set them up for virtual school in a quiet space.
Ask Your Employer to Adjust Your Schedule
In many cases, the issue is not an illness. It is the lack of childcare due to school closings and other childcare issues. In these cases, you can ask your employer for a little flexibility. If you have the opportunity to work evenings, it may help you care for your child and still work.
Many times, people can find childcare for the evening, but not during working hours. Other times, a spouse needs to work during the day and has less flexibility. Either way, if your boss can adjust your schedule, you can likely deal with COVID without losing pay.
Online Tool: Determine Your FFCRA Eligibility
Know Your Rights Even When Government Coronavirus Provisions End
When laws change, it does not mean you have lost all rights. While the mandatory FFCRA leave will expire at the end of 2020, your employer can still receive the tax benefits into 2021 to voluntarily provide leave. Furthermore, you have the right to use your accrued time off and family leave laws to take time off due to COVID-related issues.
If your employer denies you the leave, you have the right to file a claim for violations of your rights. The dedicated employment law and sexual harassment lawyers at the Derek Smith Law Group can help. Call 800.807.2209 for your free consultation
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