Businesses Need to Adjust to Employment Law Impacts of COVID-19

March 30, 2020 LRN Corporation

The federal government passed emergency legislation to fight the financial impact of COVID-19 virus for infected employees, and those caring for loved ones who are infected, as the pandemic devastates communities across the U.S.


To help employees with COVID-19, temporary amendments have been made to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which permits certain employees to take between 12 weeks to 26 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to recover from health problems, or to care for family members with serious health concerns.


It applies to all part-time and full-time employees who have worked at least 12 months at a public company, government agency, public or private elementary/secondary school, or a private sector company with 50 or more employees.


The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)–recent amendments that expand FMLA benefits to extended family, and medical leave for COVID-19-related issues–takes effect April 2, and is set to expire Dec. 31. 


Employers required to adhere to the FFCRA include certain public employers, and most private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Companies with 500 or more employees are excluded, although some large companies, such as Walmart, have offered paid leave to employees with COVID-19.


Compensation is determined by the reason an employee is unable to work. Employees with COVID-19 symptoms who are under government-ordered quarantine, and those advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine, are guaranteed their regular rate of pay for two weeks, to a maximum of $511 per day. The same applies to individuals experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. 


Employees with a severe COVID-19-related illness qualify for two-thirds of their typical rate of pay–capped at $200 per day–for 12 weeks. If an employee is caring for a quarantined or self-quarantined individual, the employee will be compensated at two-thirds their regular rate of pay for two weeks, to a $200 daily maximum. 


How can businesses manage these additional benefits and obligations?


Covered employers will receive dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through tax credits for wages disbursed and costs needed to maintain employee health insurance coverage. Employers with 50 or fewer workers who might struggle to meet these requirements may be exempt altogether. 


Many companies may struggle to keep up with the FFCRA, according to The National Law Review. Employers may face monetary burdens and cash flow issues, since credit is only received once payroll tax has been paid. Additionally, covered employers will have to adjust internal policies to comply with the FFCRA, which may require the use of legal counsel and added costs.


Changes still are being made to the FFCRA, so it’s important for companies to check the latest updates and determine how the law applies to their organization and its employees. 


To help companies navigate the crisis and protect employee health and safety, LRN is providing dedicated COVID-19 crisis resources. Some of these resources include: COVID-19 webinars; a podcast and update note from LRN’s David Greenberg; the latest from the E&C Pulse newsletter; cybersecurity and risky data behavior reports; work-from-home guidelines; ethical decision-making tutorials; an email communication tutorial; and information regarding social distancing practices.

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