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Rowan Chamber of Commerce’s speaker talks about navigating new paid leave law

SALISBURY — Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in the spring, it has disrupted many aspects of everyday life, including work.

Parents who are employed have been forced to juggle their work life with providing the necessary care for their children or family members.

To help those families and employees in general, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed and signed into law in March. The bill expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act and requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. 

Kenny Colbert, the president and CEO of The Employers Association in Charlotte, delivered a presentation on the bill at the Rowan Chamber of Commerce’s November Power in Partnership Breakfast on Thursday morning. The Employers Association provided human resources training and solutions to over 900 businesses in the Charlotte region.

During his presentation, Colbert delivered advice on how companies can navigate the FFCRA to ensure that their employees are healthy and happy, but also continue to be profitable.

Colbert

“You’ve got a lot of employees that have been impacted by childcare issues and COVID issues that have affected their own personal family,” Colbert said. “But at the same time, they have a job to do, they have to balance their job. On the other side of it, you have the companies that want to be recognized as a family friendly employer. They need to get the product out the door.”

Under the FFCRA, which applies to businesses with fewer than 500 employees, employers must provide emergency paid sick leave. Employees can take sick leave for various reasons, including to self-quarantine as advised by a healthcare provider, if they are awaiting a medical diagnosis after having COVID symptoms, or if they are caring for a child or individual due to the closure of a childcare facility.

The FFCRA also requires employers to provide 10 weeks of paid family and medical leave, including a 10-day “waiting period.”

“This is a well-intended law,” Colbert said. “It has helped a lot of employees balance their work life and their personal family life.”

However, Colbert said, the FFCRA has impacted businesses.

“This may be much more generous than the average leave policy,” Colbert said. “You could be paying a lot of people up to 10 weeks of leave.”

There are tax credits available to help businesses afford to pay for their employees’ leave, Colbert said.

“Employers are entitled to a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the wages paid for the emergency paid sick leave and the expanded FMLA,” Colbert said. “The way you get your money back is when you file your taxes you’ll be reimbursed the next quarter.”

Rowan Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Spalding said that she heard Colbert speak about the FFCRA at a recent meeting and wanted him to spread that knowledge to Rowan County employers.

“This is very valuable information,” Spalding said. “I know that all of our Rowan employers want to support their employees and do the right thing. It’s just that there are so many nuances to the new federal regulations and of course state.”

While the FFCRA is set to expire after Dec. 31, Colbert said that doesn’t expect the law to go anywhere anytime soon.

“I think it’s probably going to be extended in some shape, fashion or form in 2021,” Colbert said.

Although the FFCRA does not apply to businesses with more than 500 employees, Colbert encouraged those companies to learn about the FFCRA.

“If you are a larger employer, the law doesn’t apply to you,” Colbert said. “But I think you should know the mechanics of this law so that you can say ‘I’m keeping up with what the other companies are doing. I’m being a good and responsible employer.’”

For more information about the FFCRA, visit the Department of Labor’s website at dol.gov. The next Power in Partnership Breakfast will be held on Dec. 17 and will feature inspirational speaker Patrick Henry.

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