Today marks the effective date for the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act. While the new law does not require a policy, employers must inform employees of their rights via a poster. Employers should hang this poster in lunchrooms and distribute via email to all remote staff. We recommend creating an addendum to the handbook and drafting an email to employees outlining their leave options and including important information such as rate of pay, duration of leave, and notification requirements.

In conjunction with the effective date of the plan, the Department of Labor announced the qualifications for a business to request an exemption to implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The DOL clarified that businesses with under 50 employees may only claim exemptions for providing employees leave due to lack of childcare. Businesses may not claim an exemption for Paid Sick Leave for reasons related to taking time off to care for themselves or a family member with COVID-19.

Businesses may claim the exemption due to the following reasons:

  • FMLA+ and Emergency Paid Sick Leave expenses would exceed revenue and cause the business to cease operating at minimal capacity.
  • The absence of employees requesting leave would cause a substantially risk to the financial health or operational capacity due to specialized skills, knowledge, or responsibilities the employee possess. OR
  • The business does not have sufficient workers who are able willing and qualified to perform the work that are needed for the business to continue minimum operations.

While these exemptions may seem easy to claim, I urge all clients to think about the bigger picture of denying leave. Is this the right thing to do? If the situation was flipped, how would I want my employer to treat me? Could I potentially receive negative publicity due to leave denial? Since the employee’s wages and costs for benefits are eligible for tax credits, the costs to the employer to provide the leave are relatively low.

Evaluate the law with your leadership teams accounting and other appropriate decision makers and determine your approach.