Any business in the US is probably still feeling at least some of the effects of COVID-19. But is your business prepped for all the legal changes surrounding the pandemic? This article will get you up to speed with the most recent knowledge and the best HR strategies for handling some important legislation related to COVID: the FFCRA and the ADA. We’ll also get into some of the most commonly asked questions about pandemic-related work issues.
The FFCRA: The Basics
As an employer, what you need to know about the FFCRA is that it generally covers different kinds of paid emergency sick leave related to circumstances caused by COVID-19. This law, ending effect on December 31, 2020, will apply to your business if you have fewer than 500 employees. It’s applicable to all employees (with some exceptions for health care workers and first responders), no matter how long they’ve been with your business. This act entitles workers to up to 2 weeks of emergency paid sick leave. The FFCRA has also provided emergency expansion of family medical leave, with up to 10 weeks of paid leave at 2/3 the usual rate (with caps). There are two general kinds of leave: sick leave for the employee, or leave to care for a child or other individual.
There are few different types of sick leave for employees:
- The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order that was issued in response to COVID.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine if they have COVID-like symptoms or have been exposed to the virus.
- The employee has COVID-like symptoms and is getting a diagnosis.
Leave to care for a child or individual requires:
- Daycare, school, or other place of care closures for children under 18
- Caring for a child or adult experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and waiting on a diagnosis, having a diagnosis, or quarantining for potential exposure to the virus
The FFCRA also provides guidance on how much and for how long you should pay an employee when taking leave. If you have HR consulting through an HR and payroll company like MP, they can walk you through what your employee’s specific situation requires. There are some very specific guidelines for this that you don’t want to make a mistake on.
Payroll Tax Credit
Something important to keep in mind is that you will have a payroll tax credit coming your way if your employees need to take leave under circumstances described by the FFCRA. You could receive a dollar for dollar credit for emergency sick leave and expanded FMLA wages against the employer portion of Social Security taxes. You are likely to get a refund for amounts that exceed what is available as a credit.
The last two things you should know about the FFCRA are that you should be sure to share electronically (if your team is working remotely) and post relevant required posters in a conspicuous place on-premises. You can find them here. You should also carefully document:
- The name of your employee requesting leave
- The date(s) for which leave is requested
- The reason for leave
- A statement from the employee that he or she is unable to work because of the reason.
The ADA as expanded for COVID-19
As you might already be encountering, COVID-19 has created some challenges that get complicated by the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act. Generally, the ADA does not interfere with a company’s abilities to follow guidance from the CDC or local public health authorities. However, the ADA does require employers to provide some accommodations for employees when faced with certain COVID-related situations. This article will delve more into this topic during some of the FAQs explored below.
Frequently asked questions about the FFCRA, ADA, and COVID
1. Does the ADA apply to situations arising from coronavirus?
Most HR solutions companies will say yes to this question. If your employees are suffering from COVID-19 or an underlying health condition that falls under the ADA, you should be ready to provide accommodations. The ADA also bans employers from taking negative employment actions based on preconceived notions of somebody’s condition. So never to assume that a disability will increase the risk of coronavirus complications.
2. My employee has COVID. What do I do next?
Start by using business protocols recommended by the Center for Disease Control. This will include, among other things, sterilization procedures. Next, determine who else may have been exposed. While keeping the identity of the diagnosed employee confidential, figure out who they may have come in contact with and ask those people to self-monitor or quarantine, depending on the situation. You may also need to report any cases of COVID to state and local public health departments. Once you’ve done these two steps, decide what leave options apply to this employee. Document and implement. Do the same for any exposed employees who also may need to take leave to quarantine for potential exposure.
3. My employee was exposed to COVID but is asymptomatic. What do we do next?
As guided by the CDC, anybody who has potentially been exposed to the virus should quarantine as a precaution. While you can’t require an employee to quarantine outside of work, you can put them on leave to prevent further COVID exposure among your staff. As mentioned earlier, while maintaining confidentiality, notify everyone who may have come in contact with the employee. Tell them to self-monitor or quarantine, as appropriate. It’s important to note here that if employees are asymptomatic, they’re less likely to qualify for paid leave under FMLA. This is because they’re not deemed to have a serious health condition. However, the quarantine may qualify for leave under the FFCRA.
4. My employees are concerned about coming to work, even though we have no known cases in our workplace. Do we have to accommodate them?
Start by opening a dialogue with any staff that expresses concerns about coming to work. Find out what bothers them. If they have a preexisting condition that makes them more vulnerable to COVID and COVID complications, they may be covered by the ADA. You might have them work remotely, in a separated workspace, or even stagger their hours. If your employee has a mental health issue that is exacerbated by fears about COVID, they’re less likely to be covered under the FFCRA. However, your instinct here should be to accommodate as much as possible. This situation is unprecedented. It’s also an unprecedented opportunity to build a real rapport with your staff. Help them to feel supported and safe in their jobs. It will go a long way towards better productivity, retention, engagement, and overall company culture.
5. My employees are travelling for vacation or for business. Should they self-quarantine when they return? Do I pay them for those 14 days?
Unfortunately, there’s no federal guidance for this, but use state guidelines and consult your HR services if you have them. It’s also worth noting that you might want to consider having that employee work remotely for their quarantine period if possible, rather than putting them on leave. This could be a palatable solution for everyone.
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