It’s been one whole year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic! For some, the year has flown by and for others, the year has been quite a long one. It is unfortunate that the coronavirus pandemic is still very real; however, we are hopeful that normalcy is on the horizon. We have several vaccines available now and coronavirus cases are showing a decline. We are optimistic that we will return to normalcy soon. We miss the energy of the office and collaborating with our co-workers, as well as meeting with brokers and clients face-to-face.
U.S. Federal Updates
American Rescue Act of 2021
From the House to the Senate and to the House again, the American Rescue Act has been signed by President Biden. As you are well aware, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired on December 31, 2020. The Act does not extend paid leave under the FFCRA, but rather extends the tax credits that are available to employers who continue to voluntarily provide FFCRA-like leave through September 30, 2021. Employers will also be able to claim tax credits for leave provided for the following reasons:
- The employee has been exposed to COVID-19 and is seeking or awaiting the results of a diagnostic test for, or a medical diagnosis of COVID-19 (this includes when an employer requests an employee to obtain a test or diagnosis);
- The employee is obtaining an immunization related to COVID-19; or
- The employee is recovering from any injury, disability, illness, or condition related to such immunization
The Act resets the 10-day limit for the tax credit for paid sick leave under the FFCRA beginning April 1, 2021. In other words, an employer could provide an additional 10 days of FFCRA-like leave and claim a tax credit, if they so choose (not required). As a reminder, providing FFCRA-like leave (and claiming the associated tax credits), is only an option for employers that were subject to the FFCRA.
Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act
Some version of the FAMILY Act has been introduced at the federal level for several years now without success. However, support for a national paid leave program continues to grow. Senate Bill 248 was recently introduced and we will keep you posted as it works its way through the legislature.
Some quick notes on the law:
- Would apply to all employers.
- Employees must be insured for social security disability insurance (SSDI)) and have earned income from employment during the 12 months prior to the month in which they file an application for leave.
- Funded through a payroll tax of 0.20%.
- 60-day leave entitlement with a benefit of 66 ⅔%, capped at $4,000 per month.
City of San Francisco – COVID-Related Employment Protections Ordinance (CEPO)
Effective March 7, 2021, the CEPO prohibits employment discrimination based on COVID-19 status. Employers must provide notice to employees in a manner calculated to reach all of them: by posting in a conspicuous place at the workplace, via electronic communication, and/or by posting in a conspicuous place in a web-based or app-based platform.
Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)
The DFEH has updated it’s COVID-19 employer information FAQs which includes reasonable accommodations, job-protected leave, vaccination, and symptoms.
We would like to point out that leave entitlement for employees requesting safe leave under the new Connecticut Paid Leave program will be 12 days rather than 12 weeks. Please refer to the FAQs for more information. Contributions for this program began in January 2021 and employees will be able to file for benefits next January, 2022.