On March 18, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was passed and signed into U.S. law. Effective April 1st, the Act affords American employees relief in the form of paid sick leave benefits related to COVID-19.
The FFCRA applies to businesses and tax-exempt employers with fewer than 500 employees, and includes two paid leave components: the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA).
The former expands the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide paid leave to eligible employees who cannot work because they must care for a minor, or because their school or daycare is not available due to the coronavirus public health emergency. The first two weeks of EFMLEA are unpaid, but after that employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave (subject to pay caps).
Under the EPSLA, employees are entitled to two weeks paid sick leave at their regular pay rate (subject to caps) for those who are sick, quarantined, seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. Importantly, the EPSLA provisions must be granted in addition to any other paid leave benefits the employer already provides.
As the impact of coronavirus deepens, it poses a significant challenge to legal teams who will be affected by absences under the new Act.
General counsel and other legal leaders must be prepared for the consequences of sudden and high employee absenteeism. The inevitable staff outages mean that many teams are at imminent risk of failing to deliver their services or compromising on its quality. It is critical to have a legal continuity (LC) plan that identifies any risks to the business and implements safeguards and procedures to mitigate them (e.g., documenting policies and backing up institutional knowledge).
While the disruptive impact of the pandemic is expected to weigh significantly on legal teams worldwide, a robust LC strategy will reduce the risks associated with absences under the new laws and ensure the smooth continuity of operations.
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The U.S. government and other international jurisdictions publish daily updates with the latest statistics and advice. It is important to continue to monitor the latest guidelines as they are likely to evolve substantially over the coming weeks.
This blog is for information only and should not be considered as legal advice. Organizations with questions about the applicability of the FFCRA to their specific circumstances should consult with a legal, employment, or tax professional.