You might remember the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that was enacted in April of 2020 that required companies with less than 500 employees to provide paid sick and family leave for a variety of COVID related reasons through December 31, 2020. It was then made voluntary through September 2021 and then the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was enacted on March 11, 2021, to further extend that benefit as well as institute other benefits to support employees impacted by COVID.
Under the ARPA, companies with less than 500 employees could opt to pay employees that were unable to work for a variety of reasons related to COVID and Vaccinations and the employer would then take dollar for dollar tax credit on the payroll 941 filing for any qualifying paid leave. It’s really a win-win and no reason for a company to have not opted into the plan and support employees. The ARPA also provide COBRA subsidies for those that had a loss of benefit coverage.
Well, this all expired at midnight on September 30, 2021, so that means no more tax credit for any time paid out to employees for COVID or Vaccine related time away that was covered under these plans. The only exception is the state of Massachusetts in which they extended the state emergency paid sick leave through April 2022.
Now it’s time to determine what your business will do moving forward when an employee is unable to work due to a COVID related reason if you participated in the voluntary extension through September 30th. More than likely, it will be that employees will use any available paid time off, whether available through a company policy and/or state or local requirement. Given that, it’s time to revisit any paid time off policies as well as any state sick paid time requirements, depending on the state(s) in which employees are working.
The Delta Variant is still out there and COVID is still impacting many people, so it’s important to continue to follow applicable safety guidelines in the workplace, encourage vaccines for those that are able to get them, support and encourage employees to not come to work when sick and understand what to do when an employee is exposed and/or contracts the virus.
For companies with 100 or more employees, it’s time to start preparing for the federal vaccine mandate that is expected to be issued within the next few weeks. The details are still yet to come, but our previous blog talked about steps to take now.
Lastly, the pandemic unemployment benefits have ended for individuals and guess what? No massive increases of candidates suddenly available for open positions, as many people talked about. This points back to companies needing to assess their culture, work environment, benefits as well as their overall recruiting process to attract qualified candidates. Our Recruiting Specialist, Sandra Chustz recently wrote about how a small business can recruit in a COVID world. You can read that here.
Next up, vaccination booster shots and what that means for employees and employers. Is an employee that is vaccinated but doesn’t have the booster shot considered a vaccinated employee or not? More to come on that. In the meantime, if you have questions about the information in this article or any other HR related questions, reach out to us at Employers Advantage LLC.