Church employees (including called pastors) with children are facing an uncertain fall of education and school enrollment. With options differing across our NT-NL territory it is possible that a staff person or a pastor may need to take leave to care for children or facilitate their learning at home. There are many things to consider in this but one particular question that has arisen is the extent to which the required paid leave (and commensurate payroll tax credit) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) apply to church employees. If you or your congregation are considering taking or giving leave for such purpose please communicate with the office of the bishop first to ensure the decisions are clear and understood by all parties.
The following is guidance from our ELCA General Counsel. While there is no blanket exemption for churches, there are several reasons why the FFCRA leave may not apply to church employees, and to ministers in particular:
The FFCRA applies only to employers that are engaged in commerce. Most congregations or their employees are not going to be engaged in commerce, unless they have a school or similar activity. This is the same issue that arises with regard to overtime under the FLSA.
For pastors, the ministerial exception to employment laws may apply. (Note, this has not yet been tested with the government or the courts.)
Employers with fewer than 50 employees (most congregations) and who certify to certain hardships are exempt from the leave provisions to the extent the leave is used to care for children whose school is closed.
It is not clear that housing allowance is counted in ministerial income so that it could be refunded through the tax credit.
Some helpful resources on this are:
Our resource (borrowed from UCC)
DOL FAQ (see particularly questions 58 and 59 regarding the small business exemption): https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions
Methodist Church FAQ: : https://www.gcfa.org/media/2174/ffcra_rev03312020.pdf
Thanks for all you do.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America