Could your employees use additional sick leave? Many industries have dealt with elevated levels of absenteeism related to the pandemic. Within those industries, individual companies often have to come up with forms of leave that allow their employees to quarantine, care for dependents, or recover from illness above and beyond their usual terms of employment.

With so many additional health requirements in place to guard against introduction of the coronavirus into the workplace, even sniffles that were once considered acceptable are now often a reason to stay at home.

How is your business coping with additional leave? Some businesses are still keeping additional leave mandates from 2020 in place. With extended payroll tax credits available to underwrite the cost of continuing the emergency leave measures outlined by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, they’re finding it’s easiest to continue with last year’s plan until a new one is presented.

Federal Leave Requirements

In 2020, the federal government initiated several types of mandatory leave mandates, including the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSL) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFML).

The first of these, EPSL, mandated paid sick leave of up to 80 hours to employees with coronavirus-related conditions.

The second, EFML, mandated eligibility for an additional ten weeks of paid family leave (at two-thirds of normal wages) for employees with children who were affected by school or daycare closures due to COVID-19.

Both provisions applied to private companies with fewer than 500 employees.  The paid leave time is reimbursed to companies in the form of tax credits.

Although the mandatory sick leave and family leave requirements ended at the start of 2021, the provisions remain voluntary for employers to continue. This means that employers can continue to offer these extended leaves to employees and their families affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and still claim tax credits, through March 31, 2021.

Reimbursable Leave Limits

If employers want to continue offering these types of extended leave options, they are still working on the same credit balance from last year. That is, an employee who already used their additional 80 hours in 2020 can’t use more hours on this plan in 2021. This applies to the paid family leave option as well. However, if an employee hasn’t used up their balance of additional leave, the company can still offer the remaining balance if necessary, and claim the corresponding tax credits.

Will a New Plan Roll Out?

At present, the Biden Administration’s proposed relief bill, The American Rescue Plan, would reinstate leave expansions through September 31st, 2021. The leave requirements would be further extended to include employers with more than 500 employees, and eliminate an existing small business exemption for companies with fewer than fifty employees. There would also be additional measures added to provide employee relief during extended leaves.

Keeping the 2020 leave plans probably won’t extend beyond the spring. But continuing to keep abreast of the federal opportunities for reimbursement, as well as any continued changes to leave requirements for your employees, will help see everyone through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Could your business use a payroll and benefits solution that simplifies these complications? Talk to WBD today about an all-in-one, customized benefits administration platform that changes the game for your HR team — and your employees!

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