Navigating Federal Paid COVID-19 Leave in 2021
The provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) that required covered employers to provide eligible employees with up to two weeks of paid sick leave, and up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave for specified reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, expired on December 31, 2020. However, just prior to the end of 2020, Congress extended through March 31, 2021 the tax credits available to employers that choose to grant FFCRA paid leave. Notably, Congress made it clear that employers are no longer required to grant this type of leave under federal law. Rather, it is entirely voluntary on the part of the employer.
So, what should employers who are considering granting additional FFCRA leave to employees between now and March 31, 2021 keep in mind?
- The extension of the FFCRA leave tax credit did not increase the total amount of the individual employee FFCRA leave entitlement. Therefore, an employer cannot claim the tax credit for additional FFCRA leave granted to employees who already exhausted all of their FFCRA leave entitlements in 2020.
- Employers may choose to grant eligible employees the two weeks of paid sick leave or the 10 weeks of paid family leave available under the FFCRA, but do not have to grant both types of leave if they choose not to do so. However, employers should be careful to be fair and consistent when making decisions about what types and how much additional FFCRA leave to grant to each employee in order to avoid employee claims of unfair or discriminatory treatment.
- If an employer chooses to grant an employee FFCRA family leave, that leave cannot be counted against the employee’s regular FMLA leave entitlement in 2021, even though that was allowed for FFCRA family leave taken in 2020.
Finally, it is important for all employers to be aware that President-Elect Biden will ask Congress to reinstate mandatory COVID-19 paid leave benefits through September 30, 2021 as part of his American Rescue Plan. If that happens, we will send out another alert with the details.
If you have questions regarding The Federal Paid COVID-19 Leave, or any other HR matter, please contact us at 631-794-7400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.