It may seem like a lifetime ago, but the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) has only been in effect since March. Just as employers have become comfortable with the law’s paid leave and other provisions, FFCRA is set to sunset at the end of the year. As of now, there does not appear to be any congressional initiative to extend the law, and such extension has not been a part of recent negotiations over a second round of COVID-19 relief measures.
If the law expires, employers’ obligation to provide paid leave (or perhaps any leave at all) for personal or child care issues relating to COVID-19 will end. Employers that decide voluntarily to continue such paid leave could not claim the current tax credits for wages provided to qualifying employees.
Employers would need to evaluate employees on FFCRA leave to determine if they are eligible for other types of job protected leaves of absence. Employees with coronavirus-related medical complications may have serious health conditions that would make them eligible for traditional unpaid FMLA leave. Longer-term COVID-19 medical complications could also meet the definition of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and possibly qualify the employee for reasonable accommodations, including unpaid leave from work. Neither the FMLA or ADA provide leave rights due to employee child care needs.
Employers may decide to voluntarily continue FFCRA leave past its expiration, even if they cannot claim tax credits. Companies do not want to take steps that would create an incentive for sick employees to attempt to prematurely return to work. Absent a last minute legislative FFCRA extension, employers should begin thinking about how they will communicate and administer the law’s expiration.