Emergency law grants paid sick, FMLA leave

March 19, 2020 Categorized in: Work/Life Balance

Many employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic will be eligible for paid sick leave and some will be able to take paid FMLA leave under legislation signed into law March 18.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, many employers will be required to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to workers. Paid family leave will be available to many employees who cannot work because their children’s school or day-care facilities has been shut down because of coronavirus.

The law takes effect April 2. It also provides federal funds for enhanced unemployment insurance and free coronavirus testing. At press time, Congress was debating other legislation that may affect employee rights granted by the FFCRA.

Generally, the new law applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees. Employers with 50 or fewer employees will be able to apply for exemptions.

Ultimately, the federal government will pick up the tab for the cost of providing leave benefits mandated by the law. However, employers will have to pay those costs up front and then recoup them through a system of tax credits. The law directs the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service to develop implementing regulations as soon as possible.

Emergency paid sick leave

Generally, the law makes employees of covered employers eligible for one of the following:

1. Up to 80 hours of paid sick time at the employee’s regular rate of pay when the employee cannot work because he or she is quarantined due to a government order or a health-care professional’s advice, or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis

2. Up to 80 hours of paid sick time at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay:

  • Because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or
  • To care for a child whose school or care provider is closed because of the coronavirus or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services

Paid FMLA leave

Passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act marks the first time the federal government has authorized paid FMLA leave.

Employees can receive two-thirds of their regular rates of pay (with a cap of $200 per day) for up to 10 weeks. However, paid FMLA leave is available only to employees who need leave so they can stay home with children whose schools or care facilities are closed due to coronavirus.

Employees must have been on the payroll for 30 days to be eligible for paid FMLA benefits.

Online resource  Find official guidance from the DOL at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.