Congress worked through the weekend to finalize additional COVID-19 relief legislation. Although not yet final at the time of writing, all reports indicate that the new bill does not extend the Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave expansion (EFML) for parents, both of which Congress passed as part of the FFCRA in March. Therefore, both paid leave programs are set to expire on December 31, 2020. Employees are not entitled to “cash out” any unused EPS and EFML.
Under the EPSL, employers with fewer than 500 employees were required to pay sick leave of up to 80 hours to employees who take leave for certain COVID-19 related reasons. Employers were able to recoup the cost of this paid leave by taking a dollar for dollar tax credit on their quarterly IRS Form 941. This program is credited with reducing workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 by encouraging employees to stay home when they have COVID-19, COVID-19 like symptoms or came into close contact with someone who has COVID-19. The expanded FMLA similarly provided parents with up to an additional 10 weeks of partially paid leave if they needed to stay home because of their child’s school or childcare closure.
With virus rates surging, employers are likely to face numerous requests for leave through the winter and into the spring. Although employers can continue to offer COVID-19 related paid sick leave beyond the expiration date, employers will not receive tax credits for providing the paid leave in 2021. Employees seeking leave for their own illness, or to care for a family member with a serious illness may still qualify for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. In addition, many states have their own Family and Medical Leave laws and/or have enacted or amended their own paid sick leave and earned paid leave laws. If you have questions or would like us to review your PTO policies to make sure they comply with applicable state laws, please contact Peter Bennett (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rick Finberg (email@example.com).