On April 1st, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) went into effect. The act addresses the concerns of many employees who need to take leave related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a press Department of Labor press release, Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said that “The FFCRA reflects a swift response by President Trump and Congress to the impact coronavirus is having on workers. “Secretary Scalia further remarked that “The bill provides unprecedented paid leave benefits to American workers affected by the virus, while ensuring that businesses are reimbursed dollar-for-dollar. This is one of a number of important actions being taken to protect and sustain workers and their families during this time of need.”

FFCRA will directly affect small businesses of under 500 employees. It requires employers to provide emergency paid sick leave for Coronavirus and expands upon the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Here are some of the essential highlights. 

Who FFCRA Covers

Private employers with under 500 employees in the United States and its territories fall under the FFCRA. The 500 employee limit includes all employees, including those on leave, those working temporarily, those employed as day laborers, and those shared by other companies when a worker takes sick leave. 

It does not cover small businesses with under fifty employees when taking sick leave would threaten the company’s viability. These groups can apply for an exemption. Additionally, some businesses categorized as health care providers or emergency responder services are exempt.

What Does FFCRA Cover

The FFCRA covers employees who cannot work because: 

  • They are in a State, Federal, or locally mandated quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19
  • A health care provider has advised them to self-quarantine due to coronavirus-related concerns
  • They are caring for someone covered by the above
  • They are presenting symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a diagnosis
  • They are caring for their underage children due to school closures or caregiving disruptions due to COVID-19
  • They are experiencing any other similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor

How the FFCRA Affects Existing Time Off Policies

The FFCRA, as mentioned, expands upon existing legislature, and will require businesses to update their policies. 

The Emergency Paid Leave portion of the act entitles full-time employees to up to 80 hours over a two week period, while part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours they would typically work over the same time. There are caps, and the paid portion of the leave ends when the COVID-19-related reasons for leave cease. 

Concerning FMLA, businesses must provide up to 12 weeks of leave for qualifying employees. FMLA for COVID-19 reasons includes job protection, though there are exceptions.

When Does FFCRA Take Effect 

The act went into effect on April 1st and covers eligible paid-leaves taken between then and December 31st, 2020. 

While the above covers many of the basic guidelines, affected businesses should take the time to familiarize themselves with the full contents of the act. Companies are also advised to keep an eye out for any local or state directives that may add to the federal orders. 


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