Originally effective on April 1, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) required certain employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The FFCRA specified an effective date through December 31, 2020. While many anticipated that Congress would take action to extend the law’s effective date beyond the end of 2020, this never occurred.

Recently, the DOL issued guidance clarifying that employers are not required to provide additional leave under the FFCRA after December 31, 2020, but they may choose to do so through March 31, 2021, and still receive tax credits for paid sick leave. The DOL supplemented its previously issued Questions and Answer guidance, explaining that employers can voluntarily provide paid leave until the end of March:

Your employer is not required to provide you with FFCRA leave after December 31, 2020, but your employer may voluntarily decide to provide you such leave.  The obligation to provide FFCRA leave applies from the law’s effective date of April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.  Any change to extend the requirement to provide leave under the FFCRA would require an amendment to the statute by Congress.  The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, extended employer tax credits for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave voluntarily provided to employees until March 31, 2021.  However, this Act did not extend an eligible employee’s entitlement to FFCRA leave beyond December 31, 2020.

Thus, employers have discretion, but not an obligation, to provide additional FFCRA leave (and receive the resultant tax credit) to employees who had not previously exhausted their FFCRA leave entitlement.