FFCRA Extension and Expansion: Optional for Businesses Under 500 Employees

To recap, in 2020, employers with fewer than 500 employees were required to provide FFCRA paid leave to employees covered by the Act for qualifying reasons from April 1 through December 31, 2020.  Effective January 1, 2021, these paid leaves became optional for covered employers. If employers elected to participate past January 1st, they would qualify for tax credits through 3/31/2021 for qualifying paid leaves to employees. 

The American Rescue Act Plan of 2021 extended and expanded the FFCRA, however it remains optional for covered employers with fewer than 500 employees.  For employers that opt in, the FFCRA expiration deadline is now September 30, 2021.  Any employer that voluntarily pays FFCRA paid leave benefits during this time frame will continue to receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits for the monies paid. 
In addition, the Act’s provisions have been expanded where employees now have broader rights to take sick leave, including vaccination and testing-related reasons, and employees have more time allotted to use leave benefits.

Expanded covered FFCRA paid sick leaves under the Act, effective April 1, 2021, now include:

  • Employees unable to work due to obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine, or recovering from any illness, injury or condition related to such vaccine (side effects); and,
  • Employees unable to work because they are seeking or waiting for the results of a diagnostic test or awaiting a medical diagnosis. 

Employees also have more time to use leave benefits:

  • Employees’ rights to take qualifying sick leave reset to zero effective April 1, 2021. Thus, any employee’s FFCRA sick leave time taken prior to April 1 cannot be counted.
  • Employees can now seek paid family leave up to 12 weeks instead of 10.  This exists in addition to two weeks of paid sick leave, for a total of 14 weeks of paid leave available for qualifying reasons.

Last November, when Cal-OSHA past Emergency Regulations requiring paid leave for employees that contracted COVID-19 from workplace exposure, many employers elected to maintain voluntary FFCRA leave provisions through the end of this month (March 31).  Some employers may elect to not opt-in to the expanded FFCRA past March 31, out of concerns including administration and verification of covered reasons for these leaves.

It is our hope that this information helps your business determine the best course forward. We are here to help you find that path.