U.S. Congress burnt the midnight oil deliberating legislation to help individuals, families, and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) passed the House on March 16, 2020 after significant modifications designed to mitigate the impact on employers.
The Senate passed H.R. 6201 as amended by the House on March 18, 2020, and shortly thereafter the President signed it into law. Such bi-partisan deliberations are good news to A/E firms already reeling from the transition to remote work, not to mention the potential that valued employees may require extended leave due to selfquarantine, contracting COVID-19, or the need to take care of children and other family members.
“This legislation will affect a lot of firms as so many are between 50 and 500 employees,” offers Peter C. Atherton, P.E., President and Founder, ActionsProve, LLC. “A/E firm leaders and leadership teams are seeking the best way to navigate this crisis.”
PARSING THE DETAILS
Here is a rundown of what details A/E firms need to know. Employer-related provisions in H.R. 6201 include:
Emergency Paid Leave
Private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees and government entities would have to provide 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to employees who have been on the payroll at least 30 days and who are unable to work or telework in order to care for a minor child whose school/child care has been closed.
• The first 10 days of leave could be unpaid, although employees could use accrued PTO during this period.
• Following the first 10 days, employees must be paid at least two-thirds of their normal pay.
• Emergency FMLA paid leave would be limited to $200/ day or $10,000 in aggregate.
• DOL would be authorized to exempt businesses with fewer than 50 employees from paid leave provisions
Emergency sick leave
Private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees and government entities would have to provide paid sick leave to self-quarantine, get a diagnosis for COVID-19, or provide care for a family member in quarantine or a child whose school has closed.
• 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time employees. Paid sick leave for part-time employees based on their work hours over a two-week period. Emergency sick leave is on top of any other paid leave provided by the employer.
• Limited to $511/day or $5,110 in aggregate for an employee’s own illness or quarantine and $200 or $2,000 in aggregate to care for family members.
• DOL would be authorized to exempt businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the paid sick leave provisions.
Employer tax credits
The bill would provide payroll tax credits to employers to cover wages paid while employees are using the emergency paid leave and sick leave established by the legislation.
• Sick leave credit of as much as $511 per day if the employee is caring for themselves, and as much as $200 per day if the employee is caring for a family member.
• Family leave credit of as much as $200 per day, or an aggregate of $10,000.
• Employers could receive the tax credit even if the credit exceeds the amount the employer owes in payroll tax.
“The act goes into effect April 2,” states Kristi Weierbach, Managing Director, Workforce Advisory Services Stambaugh Ness. “It is important that companies have a Rapid Response Team to be able to quarterback situations when an employee is exposed to the virus or becomes infected themselves.”
Atherton concurs that how A/E leaders act today is extremely important. “As leaders, we need to empathize,” he says. “We also need to ensure we and our managers stay truly connected with every employee every day in order to maintain communication, awareness, and as much performance as possible. This will have a huge impact on the level of engagement and trust we with have with employees (and clients) moving forward.”
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