The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the federal law that provides paid sick and family leave to employees for COVID-19-related absences, ends in 29 days. By its terms, the law sunsets on December 31.
Yesterday, news broke of a new coronavirus relief bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will put forward. It will include important measures such as the extension of unemployment insurance expansions for another month, another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) small business assistance, and additional funding for the USPS, schools, testing, and vaccine distribution.
What doesn’t it include? Any extension of the FFCRA.
COVID-19 isn’t going to magically disappear on December 31. If anything, we’ll be in the midst of the virus’s current surge and the situation will be worse and direr come January 2021 than it is now. You will have more employees needing time away from work because of their own illnesses, the illnesses of family members, and the closure of their children’s schools. Yet, they will lack any federal protections for this time off.
Congress needs to extend the FFCRA now. Otherwise, millions of employees will be left without leave and without job protection as they and their families battle this virus.
Employers, you need to assume that the FFCRA is going away to start 2021 and spend some time over the next few weeks figuring out your own plan for your employees.
- Will you grant your own paid sick and family leave in lieu of the federal benefit?
- Will you merely rely on your existing PTO / vacation / sick leave benefits?
- Will you grant unpaid leaves of absence but not offer any additional paid leave to employees?
- Will you do nothing and force these employees out of your business?
These are difficult choices to make during difficult economic times. But you need to make them and you need a plan, as it appears that Congress will not provide one for you for 2021.