Small physician practices have a lot of questions about The Family First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRS”), which was signed into law on March 18, 2020. As part of this Act, Congress enacted the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (“FMLA Expansion Act”) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (“Sick Leave Act”). The Department of Labor (“Department”) Wage and Hour Division administers the new laws’ paid leave requirements and has come out with guidance that can help physician practices understand how these laws apply to them. Although we continue to see changes and new guidance daily, as of now the following advice applies:
What is the FMLA Expansion Act?
Generally, the FMLA Expansion Act expands FMLA on a temporary basis and allows an eligible employee (employed at least 30 days and has not exhausted FMLA already) to take up to 12 weeks of job protected leave to care for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the childcare provider is unavailable because of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The first 10 days (reduced from 14) of leave may be unpaid, but the employee can also elect to use any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave to cover some or all of the 10-day period. After the initial 10-day period, an employer must start to pay an employee at 2/3 of the employee’s regular compensation rate for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled, capping out at $200 per day/ $10,000 total per employee. Employers with 25 or more employees also have an obligation to return an employee to work at the same or equivalent position upon return to work, while employers with fewer than 25 employees are generally excluded from this requirement if the position no longer exists due the public health emergency, which could include financial consequences to the practice.
Read More: Coding during the Coronavirus pandemic
What is the Sick Leave Act?
Under the Sick Leave Act, employers will be required to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to full-time employees. They must also provide part-time employees with leave based on the average number of hours the part-time employee works. The coverage will apply if:
- The employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual subject to a quarantine or isolation order, or who has been advised to self-quarantine.
- The employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by Health and Human Services (“HHS”) in consultation with the Department of Treasury and Department of Labor.
Employees are entitled to use of the paid sick time regardless of their length of employment. Total paid leave (for items 1-3) is capped at $511 per day/$5,100 in the aggregate per employee. The cap is $200 per day/$2,000 in the aggregate per employee for leave, for items 4-6.
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