Thursday, March 19, 2020

Coronavirus Update 3-19-2020: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is law

Five days.

That’s all it took for both parties in both houses of Congress to work together, along with the White House and President Trump, to pass important relief legislation for American workers. We need more cooperation like this to see our country thru this crisis.

Last evening, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Employers only have until April 2 to implement the law’s required 12 weeks (10 weeks paid) family leave for school- and childcare-related coronavirus absences, and 80 hours of paid coronavirus-related sick pay.

Employers are going to need policies, and procedures, and forms, and paid leave management tools and training. And it’s all going to be very new for the smallest of employers, whose resources are already stretched thin.

Is this law perfect? Not by a long shot. For starters, it doesn’t apply to the largest of employers who can afford to pay for this leave, and it offers little in the way of relief to the smallest of employers who can’t. It has other holes as well. It leaves too many employees unprotected and too many types of leave uncovered.

That said, it’s a start, and it’s more than I would have hoped for if you would asked me about it just one week ago.

Employers, here’s the thing. This law is a floor, not a ceiling. It is solely within your power to do right by your employees. Let them work remotely if possible. Pay them if and while you can if they are ill, or under quarantine, or with a child who can no longer attend school. If you have to lay employees off, let them collect their unused vacation and other paid time off (even if you have a policy that says otherwise or the law doesn't require it). And seriously consider severance pay, or better, funding their COBRA payments for a period of time so they don't lose needed health insurance, and do it without a release agreement.

I said this a few days ago, and it bears repeating again (and likely again, and again, and again). How we act over the next few months will define who we are as a nation and what we will look like when we come out on the other side. Please, think about this as you make decisions about your employees. We all have lots of difficult choices to make over the coming days, weeks, and months, but I am URGING compassion and flexibility if at all possible. What we do now will have a long-lasting effect on our country, whatever this country looks like when this crisis is over.

* Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash