Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What it means for Coworking Spaces

The COVID-19 pandemic has come with a host of new requirements, laws, and guidelines surrounding benefits for employees. One of those sets of guidelines—the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—was recently updated under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was passed on April 1 and will expire on December 31, 2020.

You are likely already aware of the standard FMLA requirements as it applies to your employees and your clients’ employees, but it’s important to know temporary updates under FFCRA.

FMLA Guidelines for Employers

If your coworking space has more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, you are required to provide FMLA to eligible employees. Employees are eligible for FMLA if they have 1) worked for you for at least 12 months and 2) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months.

FMLA allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for family medical reasons (i.e., because they are sick or must help care for a family member who is sick). In the current pandemic situation, FMLA would apply to employees who contract the coronavirus or who have a family member who does.

Certain states have slightly different FMLA guidelines, so be sure to check the specific requirements for your state.

If an employee is sick, you must be careful to follow ADA requirements for non-discrimination. However, you are allowed to require some kind of doctor’s note or other verification that an employee is symptom-free and can safely return to work.

FFCRA: What the COVID-19 Laws Mean for Coworking Spaces

In addition to FMLA, some of the amendments to employee guidelines under the FFCRA also apply to your space during the pandemic (the FFCRA is in effect until December 31, 2020). This act requires some employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave to employees who need to take leave due to they themselves experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, caring for someone who is, or needing to adhere to a stay-at-home order (as advised by a physician or a government order) or take care of a child whose childcare or school has been closed due to such an order.

If the employee is absent from work because of their own illness or quarantine, employers are required to provide two weeks (up to 80 hours) of sick leave at full pay. If the employee is absent from work in order to be a caregiver to a sick family member or a child whose childcare options are unavailable due to the pandemic, you must provide two weeks (up to 80 hours) of sick leave at two-thirds of their normal pay rate. Fulltime employees are eligible for the full 80 hours of leave, while part-time employees are eligible for pay at the average number of hours they held before leave.

You must provide this leave if your company has fewer than 500 employees. If you have more than 500 employees, check with the Department of Labor.

In addition, there is extended paid leave for childcare (at two-thirds normal pay) for employees who have been with your company for at least 30 days if your company has more than 50 employees and providing the leave would, per the Department of Labor, “jeopardize the viability of (your) business.”

If the exemption applies to you, be sure to document why providing the extra leave would jeopardize your business.

Covering the Cost of Medical Leave

Understandably, many coworking spaces are concerned about the financial burden this type of leave requirement may pose for them. Under the FFCRA, however, it’s important to note that those leave requirements (not necessarily FMLA) will be covered by tax credits that will be available for you.

The Department of Labor says this in its guidelines for employers: “Wage and Hour Division does not administer this aspect of the law, but notes that every dollar of required paid leave (plus the cost of the employer’s health insurance premiums during leave) will be 100% covered by a dollar-for-dollar refundable tax credit available to the employer. For more information, please see the Department of the Treasury’s website.”

Other Guidance

For other guidance of the FFCRA and FMLA, please see the Department of Labor policies for the FFCRA and FMLA.

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