Stay-at-home orders are in place for most Midwestern states, and while daily life slows down, the questions about COVID-19 and new laws continue at a breakneck pace. Last week, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed by Congress which creates: 1. emergency paid sick leave; and 2. paid family leave effective on April 2, 2020. While it is a fast-moving and fluid situation with new guidance coming out each day, the basics of these two laws are laid out below:
Emergency paid sick leave
Employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide full-time employees with paid sick leave — up to 80 hours — if employees are absent for any of the following reasons:
• The employees are subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine of isolation order related to COVID-19.
• The employees have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19- related concerns.
• The employees are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis.
• The employees are caring for individuals experiencing symptoms of and seeking diagnosis for COVID-19 or are subject to a governmental order or medical recommendations to quarantine or self-isolate.
• The employees are caring for children whose schools or places of care have been closed or whose care providers are unavailable due to COVID-19.
• The employees are experiencing any other substantially similar conditions specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, except employers of health care providers or emergency responders who can elect to exclude those employees from receiving paid sick leave.
There is a different calculation for part-time employees.
Amount of payment
The new law requires employees to be paid at their regular pay for 80 hours up to $511 per day (or $5,110 total) if leave is taken for the first three reasons listed above. And an employee’s paid leave is capped at $200 per day (or $2,000 total), if leave is taken for the last three reasons listed above.
Use of leave and notice to employees
Employers cannot require employees to use other sick time or paid time off for COVID-19 related reasons, or before accessing this paid sick leave benefit.
A notice of this new law will be made available by the Department of Labor and must be posted in the workplace.
Tax credit for employers
Employers will receive a tax credit for qualified paid sick leave up to $511 per day for the employee’s own conditions and $200 per day for an employee caring for another individual.
Emergency family medical leave expansion
This new law requires employers with fewer than 500 employees provide 12 weeks leave for an employee who is unable to work or telework in order to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed for COVID-19-related reasons. This expanded leave is available to any employee who has been employed 30 or more days.
The first 10 days of this leave may be unpaid, although other employer paid leave time can be used to provide pay for that 10 days. There are caps and ratios on how much an employee can be paid under this law.
Importantly, the Labor Department will have the authority to exempt from the paid family leave requirement small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the requirement to provide leave would jeopardize the viability of the business.
Both the emergency paid leave and emergency family medical leave expansion provisions are scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2020.
As stated above, this is a fast moving and fluid situation with changes occurring daily. Reach out to your HR professional or legal counsel with questions.
ADAM BARTROM is a partner the Labor and Employment Department of Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Fort Wayne office. He can be reached at email@example.com or 260-425-4629.