Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
On March 18, 2020, Congress enacted and the president signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It contains numerous provisions, two of which create new requirements for some employers (including government agencies like the University System) to provide paid leave to employees as they deal with various circumstances related to the coronavirus COVID-19 public health emergency. These new requirements take effect on April 1, 2020 and expire on December 31, 2020.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
One provision of the new law entitles any employee (as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act) regardless of their length of service, to emergency paid sick leave if the employee is, in connection with COVID-19:
- subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order;
- advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
- experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis;
- caring for an individual who is subject to (1) or (2);
- caring for a son or daughter whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable;
- experiencing any similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Full-time employees who meet at least one of these criteria may take up to 80 hours of paid leave. Affected part-time employees may take paid leave for up to their average number of hours worked over a two-week period.
The pay for those employees who must be quarantined or isolated and/or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (criteria 1, 2, and 3) is capped at $511 per day and an aggregate total of $5,110. The pay for those who are caring for someone else (criteria 4 and 5) is to be at least two-thirds (2/3) of their regular pay rate but capped at $200 per day and an aggregate total of $2,000.
Covered employees are entitled to use this emergency paid sick leave before using any other accrued leave.
The employer is required to post notices of this requirement (as with other employment rights notices). A model notice is expected from the U.S. Department of Labor soon.
The employer may require employees to follow reasonable notice procedures once the employee has begun receiving the paid leave.
Expanded Family and Medical Leave
The other pertinent provision in the new law amends the Family and Medical Leave Act such that covered leave is now available to employees with at least thirty days of service who are caring for a son or daughter under 18 years of age whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.
Affected employees are entitled to take this leave as part of their 12-week allotment under the FMLA. It does not add an additional 12 weeks onto the already existing 12 weeks of FMLA leave.
The first two weeks of leave under this provision are unpaid – as is customary under the FMLA. The employee may utilize these two weeks of unpaid leave, however, at the same time as the two weeks of emergency paid sick leave described above.
The remaining 10 weeks must be paid – unlike other leave under the FMLA. That pay is to be at least two-thirds (2/3) of their regular pay rate but capped at $200 per day and an aggregate total of $10,000.
The employer may require employees to give as much notice as is practicable when the need for leave is foreseeable.
Combined Effect of New Paid Leave Laws
In summary, under these two new provisions combined, employees are entitled to the following leave guarantees:
All employees who are quarantined, isolated, or sick due to COVID-19 can take up to two weeks of paid leave – limited to $511 per day and $5,110 total.
All employees who are caring for another individual who is quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19 can take up to two weeks of paid leave – limited to $200 per day and $2,000 total.
All employees who are caring for a son or daughter whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 can take two weeks of paid leave – limited to $200 per day and $2,000 total. In addition, those employees doing the same who have been employed for at least 30 days can then take 10 more weeks of paid leave – limited to $200 per day and another $10,000 total. (For those with 30 days of service, the two paid weeks can be used at the same time as the two unpaid weeks under the other provision.)
In the case of an employee who fits more than one of these categories, the leave totals are not cumulative. For example, if an employee is quarantined and is also taking care of someone else who is quarantined, the employee would still get two weeks of leave, not four.
Affected employees are also still able to use any other paid leave they have accrued. For more information about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, visit the U.S. Department of Labor FFCRA Information page.
If you have any questions, please contact a member of the HR and Payroll team.