Employment trends expert discusses FFCRA expiration date and employers’ obligations moving forward
On January 1, provisions for COVID-related sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will expire. These provisions were created to help buffer the economic pain felt by people who either tested positive for coronavirus or may have come in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus, or for parents who needed to provide childcare in cases where daycares or schools were shut down due to virus exposure. But, in just two weeks, these protections will end.
“Under FFCRA, employees received up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) related to COVID-19 illnesses and school closures,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and employment trends expert. “But regardless of whether an employee accessed all of these hours, they will disappear at the end of this month. There’s a small possibility that President-Elect Biden will take office and add new COVID-related EPSL protections in 2021, to make up for these expiring provisions, but that’s a big maybe for now.”
Wilson says that this means employers will no longer receive FFCRA reimbursement from the federal government for any workers’ EPSL taken after Dec. 31.
HR expert Rob Wilson comments on how employers can avoid ending up with a skeleton crew this holiday season
With the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were forced to cancel their vacations, weddings, cruises, and other planned leisure activities. As a result, workers across the country have collected many days’ worth (or even weeks’ worth) of paid time off, which will need to be used by year’s end or could be potentially lost forever.
Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and human resources expert, comments on this breaking topic below:
“The COVID-19 shutdown impeded workflow in many ways, but it also created a situation in which employees could no longer travel or engage in their planned vacations. As a result, we saw many employees simply forgo their time off, and instead work through 2020 without a designated break. But this has now led us to a serious HR quandary: All of these workers who didn’t use their PTO have an impending deadline of December 31st, by which they need to use their paid time off or possibly see it disappear.”
As a result, says Wilson, workplaces could be looking at many empty desks for the next few weeks, as employees shoehorn their PTO onto the holiday season.
On this month’s podcast Rob, Scott, and Jason discuss “The Top 5 Employment Law Changes Expected Under Joe Biden,” including: the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employee leaves of absence, labor relations, independent contractors, minimum wage, and more.
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Rob, Scott, and Jason discuss the 2020 Kaiser Health Survey, including: renewal rate increases, employer and employee premium contribution rates, the most common plan designs (PPO, HDHP, HMO, POS) and their enrollments, higher deductibles and employee cost sharing, the uncertainties that insurers and employers have to deal with right now, and more.
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Employment expert explains how FFCRA/CARES will impact employee benefits
In order to respond to the continuing COVID-19 crisis which has left millions of people out of work and the economy on the brink of disaster, health insurance and employee benefits are being temporarily revamped to mitigate these pressing concerns.
“Through provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), company benefit plans are experiencing temporary changes geared towards a more employee-friendly offering,” says Rob Wilson, employment expert and President of Employco USA, a employment solutions firm with locations across the country.
Below, Wilson outlines new changes to health insurance plans and employee benefits which have recently been implemented due to the pandemic:
Medical Plan Coverage: “UnitedHealthcare – the nation’s largest insurance company – and other large insurers are waiving cost sharing and copays for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) treatments,” says Wilson. “While each company differs in how long the waivers will be in place and what other costs will be waived, these announcements are part of a cross-country effort to help individuals access affordable care during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
April 08, 2020 (UPDATE)
Through provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), company benefit plans are experiencing temporary changes geared towards a more employee-friendly offering.
Medical Plan Coverage: UnitedHealthcare – the nation’s largest insurance company – and other large insurers are waiving cost sharing and copays for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) treatments. While each company differs in how long the waivers will be in place and what other costs will be waived, these announcements are part of a cross-country effort to help individuals access affordable care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HDHPs and HSAs: Allows telehealth and other remote care services to be covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) before the deductible is met, without affecting the HDHP’s compatibility with health savings accounts (HSAs).
OTC Eligibility: Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, along with menstrual care products, will be qualified as medical expenses that may be paid for using HSAs or other tax-advantaged arrangements, such as health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).
March 28, 2020 (UPDATE)
President Donald Trump has signed the third and largest COVID-19 piece of legislation. The following bullet points summarize the key provisions of the Act.
Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
- Expanded Unemployment Benefits
- The federal government will provide an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits – this is on top of what the state will provide to the person in regular weekly unemployment benefits.
- Example: A laid off worker in Illinois who was earning $577 per week in wages, would normally have been eligible for $272 in weekly unemployment benefits. With the $600 in additional unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, the unemployment benefits could increase to $872 per week.
- Companies with less than 500 employees may be eligible to receive a forgivable loan.
- Loan maximum is lesser of (1) average monthly payroll costs during the prior year x 2.5; or (2) $10 million.
- Payments under this program exclude sick leave payments made as part of the FFCRA.
- Direct Payments to Individuals
- $1,200 for most adults earning less than $75,000 per year (or $2,400 combined for married couples earning less than $150,000).
- Potential smaller checks for individuals earning between $75,000 and $99,000; and couples earning between $150,000 and $198,000.
- Employee Retention Tax Credit
- Refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of the wages on the first $10,000 of compensation.
- This tax credit is not available to employers that receive the “paycheck protection” loans.
- Available to employers whose:
- Operations were fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-19 related “shut-down order,” or
- Gross receipts declined by more than 50% when compared to the same quarter in the previous year.
Employment expert weighs in on what companies need to communicate to their staff
With work stoppages and shelter-in-place ordinances being instituted across the country, employers have several pressing human resources issues to consider. Rob Wilson, employment expert and President of Employco USA, comments on HR concerns that have arisen as a result of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.
Wilson says that employers need to cover many points with their employees, including the below:
- Changes to benefit enrollment. “Employers need to address possible pending changes to benefit enrollment programs,” says Wilson. “Let your employees know that if they would like to make a mid-year change to their benefit elections (e.g., change a dependent care flexible spending account) as a result of a qualifying event, they should contact you to request a copy of the benefit enrollment change form.”
- Paid Sick Leave and Family Medical Leave. “For companies with less than 500 employees, if you are unable to work or telework, you may be eligible for a certain level of pay continuation, if you meet certain requirements, such as if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis, caring for an individual subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns, caring for your child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to public health emergency, or experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.”
March 24, 2020 (UPDATE)
We have created an employee-facing letter that companies can use as a template to edit and distribute to their employees. The letter includes tips for employees to consider related to the COVID-19 crisis and their employment (employee benefits, paid sick leave, family medical leave, and unemployment benefits). You can download a copy here or copy/paste from below:
We want to take this opportunity to provide you with information and tips to help you during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis. Although we’re providing this to you as our employee, these tips are likely applicable to the general public in the event you want to share this with your family and friends.
If you would like to make a mid-year change to your benefit elections (e.g., change a dependent care flexible spending account) as a result of a qualifying event, contact us to request a copy of the benefit enrollment change form.
Most health insurance plans will be required to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and related services to employees and their covered dependents, without cost sharing (like deductibles, copayments and coinsurance) during the national emergency period.
Paid Sick Leave and Family Medical Leave (at companies with less than 500 employees)
If you are unable to work or telework because of any of the following 6 conditions, contact us because you may be eligible for a certain level of pay continuation:
- subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis;
- caring for an individual subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to public health emergency; or
- experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, please contact us immediately.
If an employee is subject to a lay-off, furlough or a reduction in hours, he/she may file for unemployment compensation. Unemployment insurance is a state-operated insurance program designed to partially replace lost wages when you are out of work. Visit your state’s department of employment security or unemployment insurance website for more information or to apply for benefits.
We recognize this is a time of great stress and uncertainty. We hope you and your family and friends are safe and healthy.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
-(INSERT authorized representative’s name, job title, phone number, and email address)
On March 18th, the Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the President signed it into law. Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA, an employment solutions firm with locations across the country, comments on the issue.
“The new provisions take effect on April 2, 2020,” says Wilson. “The new requirements state that companies must provide employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave. Companies will pay employees at 2/3 their regular rate, not to exceed $200 per day and $10,000 in aggregate per employee. The pay starts after the first 10 days of leave.”
Wilson says that these requirements exist if the employee is unable to work or telework in order to care for a minor child. “If the child’s school is closed because of the public health emergency, employers must take this into special consideration.”
However, Wilson says there currently exists an option to exclude companies with less than 50 employees if this action would jeopardize the continuation of their business, and companies with less than 25 employees may not be required to restore the employee back to the same position after the 12- week leave has been exhausted.
Wilson also addresses the new provisions for the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.