Providing COVID-19 Leave In 2021: It’s An Option

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Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, providing funding for the government as well as COVID-19 relief.  Among other provisions relevant to businesses (summarized here), the legislation does not extend the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), which is set to expire on December 31, 2020.

The FFCRA (summarized by HR Legalist here) required most employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide both paid sick leave and emergency family medical leave.  While this latest law allows this obligation to lapse when 2021 begins, it does contain an incentive for employers to continue to voluntarily provide the benefits afforded to employees under the FFCRA. Indeed, the Act permits employers to continue to claim the provided tax credits (dollar-for-dollar on wages paid to employees taking FFCRA leave) through March 31, 2020–if the employer provides “FFCRA like” paid leave benefits to employees.

Whether employers choose to take advantage of the continued tax breaks will require consideration of a multitude of factors, including staffing needs, financial health, and employee morale, amongst other considerations. In addition, when faced with decisions regarding employee medical issues and leaves of absence, employers must also be cognizant of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), state or local laws, regulations, or ordinances providing for mandatory leaves of absences under similar circumstances. In short, employers should contact their employment counsel before making a decision to deny a leave of absence because the mandatory leave provision of the FFCRA has been permitted to expire. As always, we will keep our readers updated regarding any new developments regarding COVID-19 related employment issues.   

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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