Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) at the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but it’s unclear whether it will be extended.
FFCRA provides paid sick leave and emergency relief through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to allow people to take care of themselves or their families if they contract COVID-19, or care for their children if schools or childcare facilities are unavailable due to the virus.
FFCRA is effective through Dec. 31, 2020, but as daily reported cases continue to climb, there has been no indication if it will continue next year, says Bret Yaw, a specialist in labor and employment law at Ford & Harrison LLP.
“It’s yet to be seen whether Congress will extend the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” Yaw says. “In March, the common thought was that the coronavirus would be around a little bit but we’d be in the clear by summer. That’s proven not to be the case.”
Yaw provided an update on labor and employment law during the 2020 CUNA HR & Organizational Development Council Virtual Conference Collection.
For organizations with less than 500 employees, Yaw says the paid sick leave portion of FFCRA applies to all employees and provides 80 hours, or the part-time equivalent, to employees who are unable to work or telework for reasons related to COVID-19 (i.e., the employee is sick or is caring for someone who is sick, or is caring for child because school or childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions).
The act also provides emergency FMLA for employees for school or childcare-related COVID-19 absences. Employees who have worked for the organization for 30 days prior to requesting leave are eligible for 12 weeks of emergency FMLA.
The first 10 days are be unpaid, but employees can use other available paid time off. The remaining 10 weeks are paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular wage, Yaw says.
Businesses are required to provide employees a “safe working environment free from hazards,” Yaw says. He advises credit unions to follow guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) about observing social distancing, using sanitizer, and requiring or providing personal protective equipment.
Yaw recommends staying on top of the changing guidance from the CDC to ensure employee safety remains paramount.
“We’ve seen such an evolution in how we’re responding to this virus and how we’re dealing with it, that it behooves you to bookmark the CDC’s coronavirus page to get updated guidelines,” Yaw says. “Getting out in front of and managing employees’ fears and concerns about the workplace is one of the best things you can do. How productive can employees be if they’re worried about their safety?”