Mandatory Paid COVID leave (FFCRA) Expires 12/31/20, Now Voluntary

On January 1, 2021, employers are no longer mandated to provide expanded paid COVID sick days and emergency family leave benefits that was put into place by the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Covered employers (private employers with under 500 employees and public employers) have the option to voluntarily permit employees to use any unused FFCRA leave through March 31, 2021, and are still able to claim a corresponding payroll tax credit.

In March 2020, the FFCRA created the emergency paid sick leave (up to 80 hours) and the emergency family and medical leave expansion (partially paid leave for parents for school and child care closings). These leaves officially expire on December 31, 2020; and the new COVID relief bill passed by Congress did not add any new paid benefits, but did allow covered employers to voluntarily extend the use of the FFCRA benefits through March 31, 2021. Covered employers have these 2 options:

Option 1: Do not provide these voluntary benefits and take down the old FFCRA poster. Handle employee requests for leave and paid time off under standard company policies.

Option 2: Voluntarily provide extended FFCRA leave and claim a corresponding payroll tax credit for any leave taken through March 31, 2021. Keep the FFCRA poster up and communicate this to employees. If an employee has already exhausted their FFCRA sick leave (and/or 12 weeks of EFMLA), they are not eligible to receive any additional paid sick leave. However, if they still have some paid time still available, the employer can pay it (keeping appropriate documentation) and seek a payroll tax credit for the original allotment of FFCRA leave. If your company is covered by FMLA, and your 12 month FMLA leave period resets on January 1st (not look back or look forward), then an employee may be entitled to additional paid FMLA (final 10 weeks of the 12 week period) – but we are waiting for additional guidance from the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on this topic. More to read.

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