The U.S. Department of Labor released a preliminary “Questions and Answers” page on March 24th, attempting to answer some compliance questions related to the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The big news is that the law will take effect April 1, 2020 – not April 2nd as originally reported. This revised effective date took many by surprise. The FFCRA states the leave provisions “shall take effect not later than fifteen (15) days after the date of enactment.” As the FFCRA was signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020, many thought DOL would implement the law on April 2, 2020. The DOL gave no reason why it chose to move up implementation by one day. However, there is speculation this was done to line up the effective date of the law with the calendar quarter.
A common inquiry was whether employees can take paid sick leave under the FFCRA prior to the effective date (that would count towards their FFCRA paid sick leave entitlement), and whether the law will have retroactive effect. The answer is No. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act imposes a new leave requirement on employers that is effective beginning on April 1, 2020. The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements will not be retroactive.
Another common question is if the qualifying reason for leave under the Emergency FMLA involves caring for a child when their school or place of care is closed. The answer to that question is yes; caring for a child when their school or place of care is closed is covered under FFCRA. In addition, employees who need leave for reasons related to childcare may qualify for both the Emergency FMLA Leave and the Emergency Paid Sick leave. However, the total time of job protected leave under the Emergency FMLA provision would still only equal 12 weeks.