You have likely already heard rumblings about the House and Senate deal reached over the weekend on a new $900B stimulus package. Before the text of the bill was released, Speaker Pelosi published a statement that indicated “the agreement provides a tax credit to support employers offering paid sick leave, based on the Families First framework,” which led many in the industry to expect an extension of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) provision of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) beyond its current expiration date of December 31, 2020. The current version of the bill released yesterday, however, does not explicitly require that employers provide EPSL into the new year. The bill does allow for employers to continue to take advantage of available tax credits should they voluntarily provide FFCRA leave (both EPSL and emergency paid FMLA) through March 31, 2021. This does not appear to mean that an employer can claim the tax credit for employees who have already exhausted their bank of paid leave under the FFCRA.
Notably this bill has only passed the House at this time. It must still pass the Senate and be signed by President to become effective. As we have seen in the past, things can change rapidly, and this issue is impacted not only by Congress’ actions, but also by distribution of vaccines and continued public health efforts. As employers, it can be difficult to know what is right in a time of quick evolution. In an effort to provide solid foundation to a shaky situation, we want to remind you of some core duties, including the OSHA general duty to maintain a safe and healthy workplace, and the principle of non-discrimination. You should continue to exclude sick individuals from the workplace to ensure a safe and healthy working environment, and it’s also best practice to implement a consistent sick leave policy to avoid discrimination. It seems, therefore, only prudent to continue providing FFCRA leave to eligible employees and claiming the federal tax credits where applicable. Remember also that state and local laws still come into play and often provide for more generous paid sick leave benefits than otherwise required by federal law.
Please note this current global emergency and applicable laws, regulations, proposals, guidance, advice, and responses change rapidly. We strive to keep you up to date as much as possible, but this blog article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Contact myHRcounsel with questions concerning specific facts and circumstances.
UPDATE: December 27, 2020- President Trump has signed this bill into law. Read our latest blog here…