March 19, 2020

Issues covered in this newsletter:

-New employee sick leave and family leave requirements
-Employers filing unemployment claims for their workers
-Free coronavirus screenings

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Congress passed on Tuesday of this week and the President signed on Wednesday a second bill that addresses the coronavirus health crisis.  Read the statement of Frank Knapp, co-chair of Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform and president/CEO of the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

Here is what the federal law now requires of small businesses regarding paid sick leave and emergency family leave (from Ann Sullivan of Madison Services Group):

Every employer under 500 employees is required to offer two weeks of paid sick leave to employees who are sick from the coronavirus, taking care of someone who is sick with the virus or are providing childcare due to cancelled school/daycare – without fear of losing their jobs.  Full time employees who are sick are allotted 80 hours of sick leave and part time employees/hourly workers are given the typical hours worked in a two-week period. Employers are required to pay employees their normal wages or the minimum wage at the federal/state/local level, whichever is the higher.  Employees who are taking care of others are entitled to two-thirds of their regular earnings….The bill would also allow the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations exempting businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the paid leave requirement if it would jeopardize the viability of the business.

With respect to emergency family leave, which is an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the bill expands FMLA availability to employers under 50 employees.  As context, the current law requires 12 weeks of FMLA for employees of companies above 50 employees.  In order to make FMLA applicable to dealing with the coronavirus, the bill expands the definition of who is eligible for FMLA by adding employees who are unable to work because they are providing childcare due to closed schools/daycare centers.  This change is effective through December 31, 2020.  Requirements for employers include paying employees two-thirds pay for a little more than 10 weeks.  The first 10 days of the 12-week period do not need to be paid.  Employers with less than 25 employees would be exempt from requirements to restore an employee’s original position if it no longer exists due to changes in either economic conditions or a change in operations as a result of this public health emergency. The Labor Secretary would be allowed to issue similar regulations as the family leave exemptions regarding businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Employers offering this emergency sick leave and family leave will be able to get 100% payroll tax credit for these additional costs on a quarterly basis.  Employers may deduct up to $511 per day for sick employees or $200 per day for employees who are taking care of others.  The tax credit for family leave is up to $200 per day, not to exceed $10,000.  For the self-employed, these credits will be applied against the self-employment tax.

Employers Filing Unemployment Claims for Their Workers

From the SC Department of Employment and Workforce:

Employers who have a temporary shutdown, are experiencing a slow or smaller workload than normal, or have temporary/seasonal work can request permission to file claims on their workers’ behalf.  You are allowed to file up to six weeks for your affected employees.  Your employees are exempt from work search requirements during those six weeks.

To file for your workers, you must contact the SC Department of Employment and Workforce’s Unemployment Insurance department and sign an agreement letter in order to become authorized to file your employees’ claims.  You are required to report any earnings the employee may have received from you or any other employer during the particular week filed.  You also must submit an electronic file to our department each week you wish to file by clicking here. The claim must be submitted after the week of layoff is over but within 14 days of the claim week ending date.

To access tutorials and guides for the system, visit the Employer’s Bridge to Benefits page.

Free coronavirus screenings

From the Medical University of South Carolina

If you are concerned about coronavirus (COVID-19) or experiencing respiratory or flulike symptoms such as fever and/or cough, MUSC recommends you speak to an online virtual care provider. Virtual COVID-19 screenings are free. Just use the code COVID19 when you log in.

Online care on your schedule by MUSC doctors and providers you know and trust!

No appointment. No wait. Accessible 24/7 for the whole family.

Get Care Now

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