In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on March 19, 2020. This new legislation will provide paid time off for employees impacted by the COVID-19 virus. The time off provided by the Families First Act comes in two distinct forms: Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Paid FMLA.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
Under the terms of this legislation, employees will immediately be given access to 10 days of Emergency Paid Sick Leave, regardless of how long they have been employed. The leave is valid through December 31, 2020, or until the need ceases. Unused balances do not need to be carried over to the next calendar year or paid out upon the end of employment.
The number of hours an employee will receive is determined as follows:
- Full Time employees will receive 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave.
- The number of hours a Part Time employee will receive is equal to the average hours they work over a 2 week period.
- For Part Time employees whose hours fluctuate greatly, use the weekly average over the six months preceding the first usage.
- And for Part Time employees who have been employed less than 6 months, use the expectation set at the time of hire as the number of hours.
It is important to note that Emergency Paid Sick Leave can only be used for the purposes stated in the act. Employers may not require the usage of other types of paid leave prior to using the Emergency Leave, nor can the employee be required to search for or find a replacement employee.
The rate at which the Emergency Leave is paid is determined by the reason for the leave. There are two basic options:
The first covers those who need the leave for their own sickness (reasons 1-3 in the mandate). This would include employees who have been ordered to quarantine due to their own illness, are required to self-isolate because they have been exposed to someone with the virus or they are experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. These employees are entitled to 100% of their FLSA regular rate of pay or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is greater. Compensation for these employees will be capped at $511 per day and $5,110 total for the 10 days of leave.
The second covers those who need leave in order to care for others (reasons 4-6). This would include employees needing to care for an individual who has been ordered to quarantine or self-isolate as well as those who are unable to work or telework in order to to care for a son or daughter (under the age of 18) as a result of the school or child care provider’s closure or unavailability due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Compensation for these employees will be capped at $200 per day and $2,000 total.
The second category of paid leave is an extension of the FMLA statute. Under this Emergency FMLA provision, employees are eligible to receive up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave. Employee eligibility for this leave has been set at 30 calendar days of employment, rather than the typical one year cited in the FMLA statute. The only qualifying reason for using this expanded FMLA is the care of a child under the age of 18 whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable due to the COVID-19 crisis.
When taking this Leave, the first 10 days are unpaid. Employees may choose to use other paid leave during this time, including the Emergency Paid Sick Leave discussed above. After the initial 10 days, employees are to be paid no less than 2/3 their regular rate. The pay is capped at $200 per day and a total of $10,000.
These new requirements apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees, but there are waivers available for small businesses and optional exemptions for businesses that employ healthcare workers.
The businesses impacted by this statute will have until April 2nd to implement the policy. Additional guidance from the Department of Labor can be found in the resource section below. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to have adjustments made to your system in order to accommodate these new requirements.
In order to read the full Families First Coronavirus Response Act legislation, including information on the tax credits for employers, go here.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for legal advice. If you have any legal questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with a labor attorney for advice.