Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Paid Sick Leave and Expanded FMLA Leave

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Paid Sick Leave and Expanded FMLA Leave 

March 19, 2020

The U.S. Senate approved new legislation in response to COVID-19, which was signed by the President last night, and will be effective no later than 15 days after signing. The bill, called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, includes, among other relief, the temporary requirement that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide two weeks of paid sick leave as well as 12 weeks of partially-paid FMLA leave to employees impacted by the virus. The bill includes tax credits for employers providing such benefits. The key provisions of the bill are highlighted below.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act 

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act has been temporarily expanded. All employees who have been on the payroll for at least 30 days and work for employers with fewer than 500 employees will be eligible to use up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave if such employees are unable to work (or telework) due to the need to care for a child if a school or childcare provider facility is closed or otherwise unavailable to work due to COVID-19. The first 10 days will be unpaid, but employees can opt to use accrued vacation, sick time, or other PTO during that time, including the new Federal Emergency, Paid Sick Leave if they meet the eligibility requirements (described below). After the first 10 days, the employer is required to pay subsequent weeks at a rate no less than 2/3 of the employee’s usual rate of pay, capped at $200 per day, and $10,000 in the aggregate for the entirety of the leave period. The expansion of benefits will be applicable through December 31, 2020.

Federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave 

Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to temporarily provide two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave to employees who are:

  • subject to a federal, state or local order to quarantine or self-isolate, or caring for an individual subject to such order;
  • advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, or caring for an individual due to similar reasons;
  • experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • caring for a son or daughter if the school or place of care has been closed, or childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.

Sick leave pay is capped at $511 per day ($5,110 in the aggregate) for those under quarantine or isolation order, advisement to self-quarantine and/or experiencing symptoms and seeking a COVID-19 diagnosis, and capped at $200 per day ($2,000 in the aggregate) for those caring for others impacted by a quarantine, isolation order or advisement by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine, and/or school/childcare facility closing. Part-time employees are similarly entitled to sick leave for the number of hours the part-time employee works in a typical two-week period. The paid sick leave is required regardless of how long an employee has been employed by the employer, and the employer may not require the employee to utilize other types of paid leave provided by the employer before using this sick leave. The requirement to provide such sick leave will expire on December 31, 2020.

Employer Tax Credits: Sick Leave and FMLA Expansion 

Employer tax credits are being provided to offset costs of providing emergency sick leave and paid FMLA benefits, allowing companies to recoup some of their costs.

Expands Unemployment Benefits 

Unemployment benefits eligibility requirements are temporarily being eased under the legislation for newly unemployed employees, including the waiting period. The federal government is also providing additional funds to states’ unemployment trust funds to cover expected increases in unemployment benefits being issued.

Notice

Within seven days of passage of the legislation, the Department of Labor will issue a written notice of the pertinent points of the new legislation, which employers must post in the workplace. Because many employees are currently telecommuting due to the pandemic, we recommend also providing the notice to employees via email or other means of communication to ensure compliance.