Congress Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act

On March 18th, President Trump signed into Law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The enactment of the law is the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The key provisions of the law, which takes effect on April 2nd and expires on December 31, 2020, are noted below:

Employer Paid Sick Leave

Employers with less than 500 employees are required to provide paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work or telework because the employee:

  1. Is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  3. Has COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking medical diagnosis;
  4. Is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order;
  5. Is caring for a child if the school or day care center has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions; or
  6. Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the regulatory agencies.

Employees are entitled to at least 80 hours of paid sick leave (prorated for part-time employees). An employee is immediately eligible on date of hire. Paid leave is limited to $511 per day ($5,110 total) for an employee’s own illness or quarantine (paid at the employee’s regular rate), and $200 per day ($2,000 total) for leave to care for others (paid at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate). Failure to pay the required sick leave is treated as a failure to pay minimum wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Emergency FMLA

 The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides for up to 12 weeks of protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency”. These provisions generally apply to private-sector employers with under 500 employees and all government employers.

(There are exceptions for employers with less than 50 employees if the required leave would jeopardize the viability of their business.)  This new law expands the leave for employees who have been employed at least 30 days, overriding, for these purposes, FMLA’s general requirement that employees must be employed for at least 12 months to be covered. For these purposes, a “qualifying need” exists if an employee is unable to work or telework because he/she/they need to care for a child who is under 18 years if their school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable, due to a public health emergency, such as COVID-19.

This Emergency FMLA rule also requires employers to pay employees after 10 days.  Employees on leave are to be paid at two-thirds of their regular rate of pay, based on normally scheduled hours, up to $200 per day and to a maximum of $10,000.

 Mandated Free Testing

 FFCRA mandates free COVID-19 testing from all group health plans, including fully insured and self-funded plans, as well as grandfathered plans. All group health plans must waive cost-sharing, prior authorization requirements, and other medical management as it relates to COVID-19 testing. This includes provider office visits, urgent care, emergency room, and other healthcare visits that are for the purpose of evaluating or administering testing.

For more information, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.