How Churches Will be Affected by New FMLA Changes Due to COVID-19

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The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law on March 18, 2020, to provide paid leave for employees unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The FFCRA amends the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to expand family and medical leave and creates new paid sick leave directives for employers.

The FFCRA is effective from April 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, and applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees.  Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they have worked for their employer for at least 30 calendar days.  Both full- and part-time employees are included.

Churches and other nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees who were previously ineligible for FMLA benefits should be aware that these organizations are now included in the FFCRA unless leave payments would jeopardize the organization’s viability as a going concern.  This legislation provides employers with payroll tax credits to offset the cost of providing paid leaves.

The FFCRA mandates up to two weeks of paid sick leave at full pay rate for employees affected by COVID-19 if any employee:

  • Is unable to work either because of (1) a government-imposed quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or (2) advice provided by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms and are in the process of getting a medical diagnosis.

In addition, the FFCRA provides for up to two weeks of partial paid leave (two-thirds pay) if an employee:

  • Is providing care for a family or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Has been advised to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider.
  • Is the primary caregiver for a child or other household member who cannot attend school or other facility that has been closed due to COVID-19, which directly impacts the worker’s ability to return to work.

The FFCRA also provides for up to a total of 12 weeks of expanded family and medical leave — two weeks at full pay and 10 weeks at two-thirds pay, up to $200 per day and $10,000 in total — for those who must stay at home to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EPSLA) also covers employers with fewer than 500 employees but unlike the FCRA, it covers every employee regardless of how long they have been on the job.

Generally, employees must be paid at a rate based on their normal working hours at their regular pay rate.  Full-time employees are eligible for up to 80 hours of paid leave, while the limit for part-time employees is the average number of hours worked in a two-week period. 

Employers are required to furnish paid leave at an employee’s regular rate of pay — limited to no more than $511 per day and $5,110 in total — if the employee cannot work due to:

  • A local, state, or federal quarantine or isolation order due to COVID-19.
  • Having been advised to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider.
  • Having been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms and are in the process of getting a medical diagnosis.

Employers are required to furnish paid leave at a rate of two-thirds pay — limited to no more than $200 per day and $2,000 in total — if the employee cannot work due to:

  • Providing care for a family or household member who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or has been advised to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider.
  • Is the primary caregiver for a child or other household member who cannot attend school or other facility that has been closed due to COVID-19, which directly impacts the worker’s ability to return to work.
  • Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Church Law Center of California advises religious and secular nonprofits on governance and risk management matters. To find out how we can assist your organization, call us today at (949) 689-0437 or reach out to us through our contact page.

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