How Does the New Federal Paid Leave Law Affect Your Contracting Business?

One big concern coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the sheer number of people in the United States who have no sick leave. If they contract the virus, many of them worry they would have to choose between staying home sick and paying the bills. The federal government recently passed legislation to provide some assistance to people working for certain kinds of businesses. But since paid leave by the federal government is a new concept, there are a lot of details you need to know. Here’s how the new law could affect your contracting business.

What Are the Basics of the New Paid Leave Law?
The fact that the federal government has never mandated paid leave before creates a lot of questions. Prior to this point, the closest available has been unpaid leave based on the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. There may be adaptations or updates to the new paid leave law over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, but here are the basics:

  • Employees of qualified businesses with fewer than 500 workers may be eligible.
  • Workers who must stay home due to a coronavirus-related sickness or mandated shutdown may be able to get up to 80 hours of paid leave.
  • The amount is based on their regular income and the reason for leave, e.g. sickness or need to care for another family member.
  • Employers are expected to pay for the leave and then request tax credits.
  • The law applies to leave taken after April 1st, 2020 and by December 31st, 2020.

There are some exceptions, so it’s important to check on your eligibility and consult with an accountant, as needed.

How Does This Law Relate to FMLA?
FMLA has been around for 27 years, and the new paid leave laws are being administered as a part of it. For decades, FMLA has provided up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for qualified employees without worry that they will lose their jobs. Traditionally, they’ve needed to work in the job for about a year to qualify. The new leave law makes a few changes tied specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • The law expands eligibility to employees who have worked with a company for 30 days.
  • It requires qualified employers to paid for up to two weeks paid leave for virus-related healthcare needs and closures.
  • Employers may also be required to pay up to 10 weeks paid leave for parents who can’t work due to school and childcare center closures.

Many of the ways that employers can administer these policies are tied to FMLA. Companies that already have leave policies under this guideline, such as requiring employees to use all their accrued sick pay or vacation time first, may be able to apply them to this law.

How Does This Law Relate to Contractors?
This rule, and the tax credits, apply to most companies with fewer than 500 employees. This means that even if you have only a few employees, you probably are not exempt from these requirements. Many contractors may be surprised to learn that there are provisions for self-employed workers. This means that if you are out of work due to COVID-19, you might be able to claim the credits on your 2020 taxes or adjust your contributions to your quarterly estimated tax payments.

Where Can Contractors Get More Information?
Given that the requirements come right now and tax credits usually come later, it’s not surprising that people are confused and have a lot of questions. The IRS maintains a section on its website with frequently asked questions about the policy. Contractors can also check the U.S. Department of Labor’s website for updates to the policy and clarifications.

Keeping a business going during COVID-19 is a struggle. The paid leave laws may help, but contractors need to pay close attention to the details. For more information about starting your own contracting business, visit CSLS today!

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