Coronavirus Employer Requirements Coming
Here is a description of some mandates and expanded UI benefits that are in the works or already in place:
Emergency Sick Leave - an FMLA Amendment
Private sector employers with fewer than 500 workers and government entities would have to provide employees with paid sick time off to:
Obtain a medical diagnosis or care for coronavirus.
Provide care for a family member who has been diagnosed or is in quarantine or for a child whose school or day care has closed due to coronavirus.
Full-time employees would receive 80 hours of sick leave under the new emergency leave program and part-time workers would be granted time off that’s equivalent to their scheduled or normal work hours in a two-week period. Paid sick time wouldn’t carry over from year to year.
Workers would have to be paid at least their normal wage or the federal, state, or local minimum wage, whichever is greater. They would be paid, however, at two-thirds of their regular earning for providing caregiving to a family member.
Employers with similar existing paid leave policies would be required to provide workers with the emergency paid sick time. An employer couldn’t require a worker to use any other available paid leave before using the sick time.
Employers would be prohibited from:
Requiring a worker to find a replacement to cover their hours during time off.
Discharging or discriminating against workers for requesting paid sick leave or filing a complaint against the employer.
An employer could be subject to civil penalties for a violation of paid sick leave requirements.
Workers under a multiemployer collective bargaining agreement and whose employers pay into a pension plan would have access to paid emergency leave.
Employer Tax Credits
The measure would provide payroll tax credits to employers to cover wages paid to employees while they are taking time off under the bill’s sick leave and family leave programs.
The payroll tax, which funds Social Security, is a 6.2% levy on wages imposed on both employers and employees. Employees’ share wouldn’t be affected by the bill.
The sick leave credit for each employee would be for wages of as much as $511 per day while the employee is receiving paid sick leave to care for themselves, or $200 if the sick leave is to care for a family member or child if their school is closed. The limit would be the excess of 10 days over the aggregate number of days taken into account for all preceding calendar quarters.
The family leave credit for each employee would be for wages of as much as $200 per day while the employee is receiving paid leave, or an aggregate of $10,000.
The credit would be refundable if it exceeded the amount the employer owed in payroll tax.
Employers couldn’t receive the credit if they’re also receiving a credit for paid family and medical leave established by the 2017 tax overhaul (Public Law 115-97). They would have to include the credit in their gross income.
State and local governments couldn’t receive the credit. The credit would be in effect for wages through the end of 2020. The Treasury Department would have to issue regulations or guidance to ensure employers don’t manipulate the credit, to minimize compliance and record-keeping burdens, to waive penalties for underpayments in anticipation of the credit, and to establish a process to recapture credits when there’s an adjustment.
The measure would authorize the transfer of amounts equal to the credit, as well as lost revenue from wages that are exempt from payroll tax, to the Social Security and disability insurance trust funds from the general fund.
Self-Employed Tax Credit
The measure would provide a similar refundable credit against self-employment tax. It would cover 100 percent of self-employed individuals’ sick-leave equivalent or 67 percent if they were taking care of a sick family member or child if their school was closed.
Their sick-leave equivalent amount would be the lesser of their average daily self-employment income, or $511 per day if caring for themselves or $200 if caring for a family member. It would be available for 10 days over the number of days taken into account in preceding years.
Self-employed individuals could receive a family leave credit for as many as 50 days for the lesser of $200 or their average daily self-employment income.
Self-employed individuals would have to submit documentation, as required by the Treasury Department. The measure would establish alternate requirements for self-employed individuals who also receive sick-leave pay from an employer. It would also establish rules for the credit to be provided in U.S. territories.
Emergency Transfers: The measure would provide as much as $1 billion for emergency transfers to states in fiscal 2020 to process and pay unemployment benefits.
Each state would receive a proportional amount based on the share of federal unemployment taxes paid by its employers.
States would receive half of their allocation within 60 days of the bill’s enactment if they certify that they meet certain requirements, such as ensuring that workers can apply for benefits online or by phone.
States would receive the remaining funds if their unemployment claims increased by at least 10% over the same quarter in the previous year. They would have to waive certain eligibility rules for claimants and charges for employers affected by Covid-19.
States could modify certain unemployment policies, including rules related to job searches and initial payment waiting periods, on an emergency temporary basis to address the effects of Covid-19.
The Labor Department announced guidance March 12 to clarify that states can make other changes to their unemployment policies to cover affected workers. For instance, current law allows states to pay benefits when workers are quarantined, or when they leave their jobs due to a risk of exposure or to care for a family member, the department said.
Eligible laid-off workers can receive regular unemployment benefits for as long as 26 weeks in most states. After exhausting those benefits, individuals in states with rising unemployment can qualify for an additional 13 weeks of benefits — or 20 weeks in some states — through the Extended Benefits (EB) program. The bill would waive a state matching requirement and provide full federal funding for the EB program for the rest of 2020. To qualify, states would need to experience a 10 percent spike in unemployment claims over the past year and qualify for a full emergency funding transfer under the measure.