(3 – 5 minute read)
On December 31, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) was set to expire, potentially ending the Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and expanded Family Medical Leave (eFMLA).
On December 27, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (CAA 2021) was signed into law. Within CAA 2021 was Additional Coronavirus Response and Relief (ACRR) which extended the tax credits for qualified FFCRA leave. Unlike FFCRA, the continuation of EPSL and eFMLA is on a voluntary basis through March 31, 2021. In addition, the mandatory posting of this benefit is no longer required – i.e. you can reduce a bit of your HR wallpaper.
With this voluntary extension, employers can also pick/choose which portion of the benefit they wish to provide, either the EPSL or eFMLA, both, or neither. As this benefit extension has options, every employer should make it clear to their eligible employees what the status is of this benefit. Axios HR believes that it is a best practice to provide this benefit to staff that need it, and to claim the tax credits that offset the benefit cost. While there has certainly been some abuse of this benefit by a small minority of employees the benefit to those team members that truly need it should not be underestimated – it goes beyond burning thru any current sick or vacation time (which you would pay with no tax credit), the extended time off could well ensure your employee can pay their rent, mortgage, car payment (read as “get to work”), and put food on the table.
Additionally, if you are not providing this benefit and an employee needs it, you must be able to succinctly explain why you are not offering this “no cost” benefit. I won’t argue that we will all be paying for this benefit at some point, but those semantics during a global pandemic is a bit of a losing argument (note personal/professional opinion being expressed). Until March 31, this is the right thing to do for your team members, and if you do it’s ok to leave up the HR wallpaper. We would also recommend let your team know the benefit is still available as part of your ongoing COVID safety communications.
Lastly, it is imperative that these programs are administered on a consistent basis. You cannot evaluate individual leave requests and opt in/out on an ad-hoc basis.
As always, if you need help navigating these constantly shifting waters please reach out to your friendly neighborhood HR Business Partner at Axios HR.
January 21, 2021
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