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Families First Response Act: What Small Business Owners Need to Know

Mar 27, 2020 - News by

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Small Business Owner Requirements

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, recently signed into law, requires small employers (those with fewer than 500 employees) to provide limited paid-leave benefits to employees who are affected by the coronavirus pandemic.  The provisions of the Act make significant, temporary changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Small businesses will be affected by these changes and may need legal advice to navigate through the changes.

The Act takes effect on April 2, 2020 and most provisions will expire on December 31, 2020.

Generally, the Act provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:

⁕          Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or

⁕          Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and

⁕          Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Employers who are subject to the Act are referred to as “Covered Employers”, which generally include, private-sector employers with fewer than 500 employees.  However, employers that employ health care providers or emergency responders are excluded. Additionally, the Department of Labor will have the authority to exempt employers with less than 50 employees if complying with these changes would jeopardize the viability of the business.

Eligible employees include all employees who have worked for the employer for at least 30 calendar days, regardless of whether the employee is full-time or part-time.

The United States Department of Labor has issued an Employee Rights notice, which employers are required to post in order to inform their employees of their rights under the Act.

The newly imposed requirements of the Act will undoubtedly place a burden on smaller employers.  Some may qualify for waivers under the Act. For example, as mentioned above, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or childcare unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the sustainability of the business.  Specific circumstances may vary, and the right legal advice is vital to navigating these recent changes and making the right decisions for your business.

About the Author:

Kristy E. Armada is a business litigation and employment attorney at the Florida law firm of Olive Judd, P.A. Ms. Armada helps businesses identify and address the legal issues that are involved in the decisions that they make every day. Most of Kristy’s clients treat her as a trusted member of their management team and seek her advice on the broad range of matters that arise on a regular basis, such as those concerning partnerships and shareholders, licensing, contracts, employment, construction or real estate.  Please contact Kristy at (954)334-2253 with any questions.