In Absence, Blogs, COVID-19

By Angie Brown, Business Development Manager & Absence Specialist

April 10th, 2020

From the time the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was passed on March 18, employers had just two weeks to figure out what the new law meant for them, how they would handle it, and finally communicate the leave options out to their employees. 

All the while, employers were dealing with quickly changing news regarding what companies could continue to operate as a result of state and local stay-at-home orders. For some companies, this meant transitioning everyone to working remotely. Other companies unable to work from home have been forced to lay off or furlough employees. 

Regardless of location, industry, or employer size, it’s been a chaotic and challenging few weeks for everyone as we adjust to life amid a global pandemic. The federal and state governments have been busy passing new legislation to help both employers and employees during this time, but it’s created a lot of confusion regarding what employees are entitled to and which employers are impacted. 

The FFCRA Communication Gap

ClaimVantage conducted interviews with both HR managers and employees of employers with less than 500 employees — the company size the FFCRA applies to — to understand how companies have handled this new legislation that went into effect on April 1.

This employer segment largely manages absences in-house through more manual processes due to the lack of significant leaves at any one time. Those methods are being put to the test, though, as HR managers attempt to understand the new emergency FMLA and paid sick leave options available to their employees. 

One HR manager we heard from said she previously felt their method for tracking leaves was adequate. Now, with COVID-19, she doesn’t think it is. 

That same HR manager from Oregon was familiar with the FFCRA but said her company hadn’t yet communicated the new leave options to employees as of April 2 — a day after the legislation had gone into effect. 

Confused employee FFCRAThe range of communication from companies we heard from varied drastically. One employee mentioned that HR had emailed links and flyers that the Department of Labor had created regarding the new law, providing them the information they needed to be informed.

But for many others, our questions regarding the FFCRA were the first they’d heard about the legislation. One employer, who works in the finance industry in New York — a state with over 150,000 cases, more than any other single country — said her employer hadn’t communicated anything yet on the FFCRA.

The Impact of the FFCRA Communication Gap

As of April 9, the United States is quickly approaching half a million confirmed Coronavirus cases. Beyond that, schools and childcare locations have shut down across the country, forcing parents into the challenging position of trying to care for their children while continuing to work. 

The emergency FMLA portion of the FFCRA, which provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave (the final 10 weeks paid at a two-thirds rate), offers relief for those unable to work or telework due to the need to care for their child if their child’s school or childcare facility has been closed due to a public health emergency.

And yet, if this legislation isn’t properly being communicated to HR managers or employees, how are those in desperate need of this relief supposed to know about it? While news outlets covered the new legislation, the 24/7 news cycle on all things COVID-19 quickly pushes stories off the front page. Blink and you may have missed the news, even if you’re actively trying to keep up. 

The lack of communication to employees is ultimately the casualty of these chaotic times. Legislators are trying to provide relief to businesses and employees. Companies are trying to stay afloat. And employees are trying to figure out how they’re going to pay the bills. 

Ultimately, the FFCRA was designed to try to provide assistance to workers affected by COVID-19 or a lack of childcare, but the communication breakdown from the top down may leave the population it’s intended to help without an awareness it exists. 

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