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First Coronavirus Response Act

Overview

The coronavirus pandemic has hit all sectors of human activity. The U. S. government has passed several laws and regulations to alleviate the unfavorable effects of the disaster. Among the responses is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which aims to provide tax relief and socio-economic support to families affected by the pandemic (Burke et al., 2020). The Department of Labor (2020) extended FFCRA and amended the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow workers to take an additional two weeks of paid health emergency leaves. This temporary rule is effective from April 2, 2020, to December 31, 2020.

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From HR Perspective

There are several implications for the Human Resource departments of organizations and businesses. In terms of financial expenditure, extended medical leave means additional money to be spent on salaries, because medical leaves are considered to be paid. The necessity to allocate additional funding requires a budget revision to a reasonable extent. Furthermore, the HR department needs to review current government aid programs to reimburse the money spent on extended health emergency leaves. Unfavorable effects exist not only in the financial context, however. Businesses that operate during the pandemic may struggle to support their operations because of the number of employees asking for medical leave.

Prohibited Acts and Enforcement

The temporary rule is enforced by law, which means failing to comply with the requirements may lead to administrative charges. Employers are not allowed to discipline their workers before and after they return from paid leave. Any discrimination toward employees that had asked for a health emergency leave is intolerable. Also, if an employer chooses to discharge an employee upon their request for sick leave, the employer will be charged. Penalties include up to 10 thousand dollars in fines and up to six months of imprisonment (U. S. Government, 2018). It is important to note that monetary fines and imprisonment may be combined in some cases.

Implications for Healthcare Organizations

There is a risk that individuals working in healthcare, if allowed, will request paid health emergency leaves, disrupting the operation of the healthcare system during the pandemic. Therefore, the Department of Labor made health providers exempt from the temporary rule. However, the definition of a “healthcare provider” is limited to individuals that can provide healthcare services (Department of Labor, 2020).

Challenges for Patients and HR Employees

All individuals need quality health care during the pandemic. However, because of the number of people at health emergency leaves and the number of people with coronavirus symptoms, it is expected that the quality of service will deteriorate.

Challenges for Healthcare

The temporary rule may contribute to this decline in quality because individuals working in hospitals but who are not qualified as “healthcare providers” may opt for taking paid sick leaves. This situation will pose a challenge to human resource managers because of the necessity to find personnel to fill gaps in functional positions.

References

Burke, L., Burton, D. R., Fishpaw, M., Greszler, R., Michel, A., Michel, N.,… & Winfree, P. (2020). The Senate’s coronavirus bill: Bailouts, missed opportunities, and positive reforms. Web.

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Department of Labor. (2020). Paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (W&H Division Temporary Rule No. 1235-AA35). Washington, DC: Federal Register.

U.S. Government Publishing Office. (2018). Fair labor standards. Web.

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