Employees Are Needed at Home to Care for Themselves, Their Children, and Their Family Members Because of Coronavirus. Do They Qualify for Paid Leave Under New Government Mandates?
The Coronavirus Covid-19 is everywhere. Every day, thousands of new cases are diagnosed in the US. People are urged to stay at home and only venture out if it is necessary.
Social distancing is the new norm. Unrelated people should stay 6 feet apart.
Many schools and businesses are also closing their doors. Even those businesses deemed essential, like construction and home repair, are closing their doors due to lack of activity.
To help people who find themselves home with their children whose schools are closed and other infected or aiding people infected with Covid19, the federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The law includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) to help provide paid leave to people who cannot work due to Coronavirus illnesses and school closings.
What Is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?
The FFCRA is a federal bill passed to help employees who cannot work due to coronavirus-related issues. The law includes two provisions:
- The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)
- The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA)
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act law takes effect on April 2, 2020, and expires on December 31, 2020.
Who Qualifies for Paid Sick Leave?
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) covers employees who work for companies with fewer than 500 employees. You only have to work for the company for one (1) day to qualify for the leave.
You qualify for EPSLA if:
● You are ordered to a quarantine or isolation order
● A healthcare provider advises you to self-quarantine for a related or similar illness
● You have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a diagnosis
● You are caring for someone (family or non-family member) under quarantine/isolation order
● You are caring for your child because the school or daycare is closed
Who Qualifies for Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) provides paid family leave to employees who work for companies with less than 500 employees. The employees must be employed with the company for at least 30 days. This paid family leave only applies under one circumstance:
- You cannot work at home or on-site because your child’s school is closed due to Coronavirus. Therefore, you must stay home to care for your child.
After your leave, if your employer maintains at least 25 employees, you will return to work as long as your position or a similar position is open.
What Is the Process to Apply for Leave?
The EPSLA and EFMLEA are both approved by your employer. You can request leave in the same manner you usually request to use paid time off and FMLA leave. Ask your employer about the policy used to request leave. This same policy will work to request time off under the Families First Emergency Coronavirus Response Act.
How Much Money Will I Receive on Leave?
Full-time employees will receive 80 hours (2 weeks) of paid sick leave to use under the EPSLA. Employees will receive up to $500 a day for two weeks if they fit the following criteria:
- You are ordered to isolate
- Your healthcare provider tells you to self-quarantine for related illnesses
- You have symptoms of Covid-19 and are awaiting diagnosis
Employees will receive up to $200 a day for two weeks if they need to take EPSLA leave for the following reasons:
- You are caring for someone diagnosed with Coronavirus or related illnesses
- Your child’s school or daycare facility is closed, and you need to provide care
The EFMLEA provides up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for parents who cannot work because they must care for children whose schools are closed.
The first ten days (2 weeks) are unpaid. During this time, you may use paid sick leave or vacation time to receive income. The law requires your employer to provide you with paid leave for the following ten weeks of leave. You will receive ⅔ of your pay for ten weeks for a total of up to $10,000.
How Long Will the Payments Last?
Payments under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act are meant to be temporary. The option remains in effect through the end of 2020. Any paid time that is not used in that period cannot be rolled over into the next year and will not otherwise be paid out to the employee.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave will last two weeks. If you are a full-time employee, you will be paid for 80 hours of work.
Emergency Family and Medical Extended Leave provides 12 weeks of leave. As discussed, the first two weeks are unpaid. You will then receive payments for up to 10 weeks for the remaining time you are out of work to care for your child whose school or daycare is closed.
What Happens If I Work for a Company with More than 500 Employees?
Employers with more than 500 employees are subject to wage and hour laws and the Family and Medical Leave Act laws already in place. Therefore, most employers of this size have paid time off and unpaid family leave protocols in place. In addition, state Family Leave laws will help employees who need to care for family members infected with the Coronavirus receive paid time off while caring for them.
Can I Receive Payments If Someone in My Family Is Sick with the Coronavirus?
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides two weeks paid time off for employees who must care for a family member, friend, or relative that is sick with the Coronavirus. Under the law, you can receive up to $200 a day while you help care for this person as he or she heals.
Can I Take Time off with Pay if My Child’s School or Daycare is Closed?
Both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Extension Act provide provisions for employees who must take time off of work to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed.
Under the EPSLA, you can receive 80 hours of pay of up to $200 a day to care for your child who must go to school at home. Under the EFMLEA, you will receive up to 12 weeks off and ten weeks of pay during that time.
Can I receive Payments as a Part-Time Employee or the Self-Employed?
Part-time employees and self-employed employees can receive some amount of paid leave. Part-time employees will receive pay for the average number of hours they work in 2 weeks.
Self-employed workers, including those working in the gig economy, can average the number of hours they work in a year and then divide by 52 weeks.
They may take a week’s number of hours and multiply it by 2 to get the total number of hours (up to 80) they work. Then, they can use that time and estimated payment as a tax credit at the end of the year.
What Employees Are Excluded from Receiving Paid Leave Under the Law?
Some employees are excluded from the benefits under these laws because they are considered essential workers during this time. Therefore, they may need to rely on employer-provided benefits if they need to take time off to deal with Coronavirus.
These employees work in the following industries:
- Emergency Response
In addition, any employer with under 50 employees may be excluded from providing paid leave if it will cause undue hardship.
How Will My Company Afford to Pay Us Leave?
The government realized small businesses might have a financial inability to pay employees for time off during this Coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, they implemented incentives for employers in the law. The government will provide employers a full refund through a payroll tax credit within three (3) months of providing paid leave to employees.
In addition, credit is also refundable. From a tax perspective, this means if the employer pays employees more for paid leave under the law than they owe in taxes, they will receive a refund at tax time.
Contact Our Compassionate Wage and Hour Attorneys Today with Your Coronavirus Leave Questions.
These laws are new territory for the government, employers, and employees. In less than a week, you will have rights that you have never had before. This law marks the very first time the government has insisted private companies pay sick and family leave.
As everyone tries to navigate this unprecedented time, the dedicated attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group are here to help. We have spent countless hours working to understand these provisions and how they help employees. Call us today for a free consultation at (800) 807-2209 with your questions or submit your questions here.