The new law grants tax credits to small employers to cover payments to eligible employees while they take time off under the mandatory emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave and paid family leave provisions. These provisions apply to employers with less than 500 employees.
Emergency paid sick leave under the new law is limited to $511 per day for up to 10 days (up to $5,110 in total) for an employee who’s in COVID-19 quarantine or seeking a COVID-19 diagnosis. An employee can also receive emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave of up to $200 per day for up to 10 days (up to $2,000 in total) to care for a child whose school or childcare location has been closed or whose childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19.
In addition, the law gives an employee the right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected family leave if the employee or a family member is in COVID-19 quarantine or if the school or childcare location of the employee’s child is closed due to the outbreak. The employer must pay at least two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day, subject to an overall maximum of $10,000 in total family leave payments.
To help employers cover these now-mandatory emergency leave payments, the law allows a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified sick leave wages and family and medical leave wages paid by the employer.
The credit applies only to eligible leave payments made during the period beginning on a date specified by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and ending on December 31, 2020. The beginning date will be within 15 days of March 18, 2020.
The new law increases the credit to cover a portion of an employer’s qualified health plan expenses that are allocable to emergency sick leave wages and emergency family leave wages.
The credit is first used to offset the Social Security tax component of the employer’s FICA tax bill. Any excess credit is refundable, meaning the government will issue a check to the employer for the excess.