As the COVID-19 outbreak ravished the country, lawmakers scrambled to pass new laws to provide economic benefits to workers who became ill or who were otherwise negatively impacted by the pandemic. One of the most sweeping laws was passed as a result: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This law entitles most employees paid sick leave due to the coronavirus. Here is what you need to know about this new law.

New Paid Sick Leave Law

The new law requires most employers with fewer than 500 employees to give their workers paid sick leave for specific reasons related to the coronavirus. This leave can be taken at any time between the effective dates of the law until Dec. 31, 2020. However, any leave accrued during this time cannot carry over to the next year.

Employees are eligible for up to two weeks of paid sick leave at their average hourly rate of pay when the employee is unable to work because:

  • A healthcare provider recommends the employee self-quarantine
  • The employee is subject to a local, state or federal quarantine order
  • The employee is experiencingsymptoms indicative of COVID-19 and is actively seeking a medical diagnosis

If the employee is unable to work because he or she needs to care for another person with COVID-19 or who meets one of the scenarios covered above or must care for a child whose school or child care center is closed due to COVID-19, he or she is eligible for up to two weeks of paid sick leave paid at two-thirds of his or her averagehourly rate of pay.

Existing Paid Sick Leave Benefits

The new law is in addition to any existing paid sick leave benefits. Therefore, if the employer already provided one week of paid sick leave, the employee could potentially have three weeks of paid sick leave.

Paid Family Leave

Employees may also be eligible for an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family medical leave paid at two-thirds of their average hourly rate of pay if they have worked for an employer for at least 30 days and are unable to work because they must care for a child whose school or childcare facility was closed due to COVID-19.

Exemptions

There are some exemptions to the law. First, employers with more than 500 employees are not subject to it. Additionally, healthcare providers and emergency responders are also not provided for under the law in the belief that this could cause a shortage of medical workers when they are needed most. These workers include anyone who works at a doctor’s office, nursing home, pharmacy, or medical school. Federal employees are largely covered by another program, so they are not covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Furthermore, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may request a special exemption so that they do not have to provide paid medical leave to care for a child if doing so would jeopardize the sustainability of their business.

Because this is an evolving aspect of the law, you must understand your rights and obligations. Contact Jacqueline Armstrong to learn more.