On March 18, 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “Act”). The Act will go into effect on April 1, 2020. The Act requires employers having 500 or less employees to pay sick and family leave to employees impacted by COVID-19 under certain circumstances.
There are two provisions of the Act providing paid time off because of COVID-19: (1) paid family leave; and (2) paid sick leave.
PAID FAMILY LEAVE
The Act expands the already existing Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) on a temporary basis. Employees are eligible for benefits under this part of the Act if they worked for the employer for at least 30 days prior to the designated leave.
Eligibility: An eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to allow the employee, who is unable to work or telework, to care for the employee’s child (under 18 years of age) if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency.
Pay: The first ten-day period of leave is unpaid. After that, the employer generally must pay full-time employees at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled. For part-time employees or employees working irregular schedules, they are entitled to be paid based on the average number of hours the employee worked for the six months prior to taking leave.
Job Restoration: Employers with 25 or more employees will have the same obligation as under traditional FMLA to return any employee who has taken leave under this section to the same or equivalent position upon return to work. Even for employers with less than 25 employees, the employer must make reasonable attempts to return the employee to an equivalent position and requires an employer to make efforts to return the employee to work for up to a year following the leave.
PAID SICK LEAVE
Unlike with the paid family leave section above, the paid sick leave section applies to any employee, regardless of his or her length of employment.
Eligibility: An employee may be entitled to sick leave pay because the employee is:
- subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine, or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis;
- caring for an individual subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine, or isolation order, or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency; or
- experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
Pay: Full-time employees are entitled to up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular-rate (or two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate to care for qualifying reasons 4, 5, or 6 listed above). Employee’s working part-time or irregular schedules are entitled to be paid based on the average number of hours worked for the six months prior to taking leave. However, sick leave wages are capped at $511 per day (up to $5,110 total per employee) for their own use and up to $200 per day (up to $2,000 total per employee) to care for others and any other substantially similar condition.
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