FFCRA Leave Expiration

    The Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) required that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide job-protected, paid sick leave for employees who miss work for certain COVID-related reasons. Employers received a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for sick leave payments. The FFCRA paid sick leave and expanded family leave expired on December 31st, 2020.  Employers are not required to provide employees with FFCRA leave after Dec. 31, 2020, even if an employee did not use all available leave in 2020.  Despite the FFCRA’s expiring mandatory leave provisions, employers may still voluntarily offer such leave and receive payroll tax credits through the end of March.

    The payroll tax credit does not change the qualifying reasons for which employees take leave, the cap on the amount of pay employees are entitled to receive or the FFCRAs documentation requirements.  For example, 80 hours of paid leave up to certain maximums may be requested for the following reasons: 

    (a) The employee is subjected to a government quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;

    (b) The employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine due to COVID-19;

    (c) The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis;

    (d) The employee is caring for someone related to COVID-19; and

    (e) The employee is caring for a child whose school or place of childcare has closed or is unavailable due to COVID-19. 

    FFCRA also provided up to 10 weeks of partially paid leave for eligible employees who were caring for a child whose school or place of childcare had closed or was unavailable due to COVID-19. 

    It is recommended that employers anticipate these types of leave requests and communicate with their employees.  Employers should also be aware that employees who request leave may be entitled to leave under Federal or state mandatory paid sick leave laws, Family Medical Leave or Short-Term Disability Leave.  In addition, some states are beginning to enact mandatory public emergency leave benefits similar to the leave under the FFCRA.  For example, effective January 1, 2021, Colorado employers had to begin providing workers with up to 80 hours of paid public health emergency leave under the state’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act. 

    In addition to extending the payroll tax credit for FFCRA leave, other programs have been made available:  The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was reopened and is available until March 31, 2021 and there is an extension to the repayment of deferred employee social security taxes from April 2021 to December 31, 2021.  The date for penalty and interest to begin accruing has been extended from May 1st, 2021 to January 1, 2022.