FFCRA Emergency Leave Provisions
U.S. Labor Dept. Allows Pharmacies to Exclude
Staff From New Emergency Leave Requirements
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► Summary of FFCRA Provisions
► U.S. Labor Dept. Q&A
On March 28, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia issued new guidelines designating all pharmacy employees as "health care providers" under the recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Relief Act that takes effect April 1. As a result of this new guidance, pharmacy owners are no longer required to (but may still choose to) grant extended leave to eligible employees for reasons related to COVID-19.
Among other things, the FFCRA expands paid leave available to employees who are dealing with certain issues related to COVID-19. The FFCRA permits employers of "health care providers" to exempt their employees from the leave require- ments, however pharmacy employees were not covered by the FFCRA's original definition of those providers prior to Scalia's Saturday action, leaving independent pharmacies at risk of staffing shortages if several employees took leave at the same time. Such mass departures could threaten the ability of many pharmacies to continue in operation.
American Pharmacies and the Texas Pharmacy Business Council recently wrote Scalia, as did other pharmacy groups, to request that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians be exempted from the FFCRA as "health care providers" to ensure that pharmacies will be adequately staffed to stay in operation and continue serving their communities.
Though the exclusion of pharmacists, technicians and other staff members from the new FFCRA requirements gives you the flexibility you need to manage staffing constraints, it may still be advisable to allow certain employees to take paid leave under the provisions of the FFCRA. Furthermore, you can receive a tax credit for 100% of the amount (up to a statutory maximum) of paid leave that you elect to grant any eligible employee.
If an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the employee should, of course, be placed on leave for the safety of your staff and patients. There are many other situations where paid leave under the FFCRA can and should be provided. Unless the pharmacy owner exempts the employee, a worker is entitled to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work, including unable to telework, because the employee:
- Is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- Has been advised by a doctor or nurse practitioner to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
- Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- Is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) above or self-quarantine as described in (2) above;
- Is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons; or
- Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The FFCRA leave provisions go into effect on April 1, 2020 and expire December 31, 2020. You should consult your payroll service, attorney and/or accountant about properly accounting for any paid leave provide under the FFCRA so you can correctly claim tax credits for any paid leave provided. If you have general questions about the FFCRA, you may contact American Pharmacies General Counsel Miguel Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org.