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Law360 (January 4, 2021, 8:56 PM EST) -- Now that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act's paid leave requirement has expired, companies have no obligation to fund employees' sick time or family leave — but, if they keep doing so through March 31, they can collect a tax credit, the U.S. Department of Labor has told employers.
The agency's Wage and Hour Division publicized this information in guidance released Dec. 31, in the form of an update to its frequently asked questions on the FFCRA .
The guidance reiterates that the FFCRA only required employers with between 50 and 500 employees to provide two weeks of paid sick leave and up to 10 weeks of paid family leave to workers who needed it for pandemic-related reasons between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020.
Continued compliance with the law's now-expired leave requirements through March 31 will secure employers a tax credit, but it is fully voluntary, the agency said.
Rachel Dix Bishop, an employment attorney at Stites & Harbison PLLC, said continuing to offer the leave should be a "no-brainer," considering "a tax credit is available to make the employer whole."
"I think we're going to see a lot of employers choose to extend it," Bishop said.
The FFCRA required eligible employers to offer workers two weeks of paid sick time at their regular rate of pay if they couldn't come in because they were quarantined or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
The law also compelled employers to fund two weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds of their workers' regular pay rate if their employees needed to care for a quarantined individual or a child whose school or day care was closed due to the pandemic.
Lastly, the law required employers to provide up to 10 additional weeks of family and medical leave to workers who needed it for coronavirus-related reasons, paid at two-thirds of the employees' regular pay rate.
Congress opted not to extend the FFCRA's paid leave requirement in its year-end pandemic stimulus bill, but it did extend the tax credit to employers through March 31.
The stimulus bill also authorized $600 checks for millions of Americans and extended a program that increases access to unemployment benefits through March 14. The bill also authorized a $300 weekly enhancement to unemployment checks from Dec. 26, 2020, through March 14.
The measure cleared Congress on Dec. 21 by a veto-proof majority after lawmakers locked in a deal the day before. President Donald Trump assailed Congress for failing to authorize higher stimulus checks for individuals, but signed the bill into law Dec. 27.
--Editing by Joyce Laskowski.
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