The first comprehensive federal response to the coronavirus pandemic takes effect April 2, and the law firm Connell Foley has broken it down to what employers need to know.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) “… provides employees with additional wage continuation and leave benefits under certain circumstances relating specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic,” attorneys Michael A. ShadiackMarianne C. TolomeoScott P. Humphreys write in a recent client alert. “It also provides tax credits to employers designed to offset the cost of the paid leave provided to employees, and includes provisions to shore up State unemployment funds, ensure continuing food benefits, and ensure no-cost COVID-19 testing.”

In addition to providing information on new legislation, Connell Foley also serves as NJBIA’s Employment Law Resource provider.

Here are the highlights from the alert:

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

This is the first time the federal government has enacted a paid sick leave bill. Federal paid sick leave will be available to employees who work either for a private company/individuals employing less than 500 employees or at a public agency of any size.

Expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)

The FMLA has also been expanded to cover employees with a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” Public health emergencies have already been declared with respect to COVID-19 by President Trump, as well as the governors of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Under the FFCRA, a “qualifying need” means the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for a son or daughter under the age of 18 if the child’s elementary or secondary school or place of care has been closed, or their paid child care provider is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.

Small Business Exceptions

Both acts empower the Secretary of Labor to issue a regulation exempting small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the leave requirements if the requirements would jeopardize the viability of a business as a going concern.

Tax Credits

The FFCRA authorizes the employer to take a tax credit against its share of the Social Security payroll tax for the qualified leave benefits paid to employees under the FFCRA.  The IRS will provide additional guidance on the authorized credits.

Regulations and Notice to Employees

We anticipate the Secretary of Labor to issue regulatory guidance on the FFCRA, including pay calculations and any exemptions for small businesses and health care provider/emergency providers, within two weeks.

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