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Guide to the New Paid Leave Law for Coronavirus

Coronavirus has been causing some serious financial consequences in our country. Many workers don’t have access to paid sick leave. 

If they get sick and call out from work, they generally don’t get paid or have to use vacation time, if they have that.

Unfortunately, this results in many people going to work sick. They can’t afford to miss a day’s worth of pay. 

With coronavirus, this is extremely dangerous. If a sick employee with coronavirus goes to work, they could potentially spread the virus to coworkers and customers.

To help protect everyone, Congress has recently passed a law called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). This law is focused on giving paid sick leave and other types of paid leave to the employees of certain, but not all, employers.

Here’s what you need to know.

When Does the Law Take Effect?

The FFCRA was passed in March, but it doesn’t take effect until April 1st, 2020. The law’s provisions will run through December 31, 2020.

That means any missed time prior to April 1st, 2020 does not qualify for the benefits provided under this law.

What Benefits Are Available?

Under the FFCRA, there are three main types of paid leave you may qualify for. The types of leave you qualify for depend on what type of employer you work for and the reason for your absence. 

The following leave pay calculations are based on the higher of your regular rate of pay or the applicable state or federal minimum wage. 

For full-time employees, paid sick leave for two weeks is considered 80 hours. For part-time employees, paid leave for two weeks is considered the hours the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.

100% Pay up to Limits for up to Two Weeks

If you qualify, you may receive up to 100% of your pay up to a daily total of $511 in paid sick leave. In order to receive this benefit, you must be taking leave for qualifying reasons 1 through 3 listed below. 

The maximum benefit under this item is $5,110.

2/3rds Pay up to Limits for up to Two Weeks

If you’re taking leave for reasons 4 or 6 below, you can get 2/3rds of your pay up to $200 per day for up to two weeks in paid sick leave. 

The maximum benefit under this item is $2,000.

2/3rds Pay up to Limits for up to 12 Weeks

Those taking leave for reason 5 below may qualify for 2/3rds of your pay up to $200 per day for up to 12 weeks. This benefit combines two weeks of paid sick leave with 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave.

The maximum benefit under this item is $12,000.

Qualifying Leave Reasons

There are six qualifying leave reasons. In order to qualify using one of these reasons, you must be unable to work and be unable to telework. If you can work from home during one of the circumstances below, you may not qualify for this paid leave.

The benefits you receive will depend on the reason you’re taking leave as mentioned above. According to the Department of Labor, the six reasons include:

  1. You’re subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
  2. You’ve been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
  3. You’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis
  4. You’re caring for someone subject to a quarantine order related to COVID-19 or a self-quarantine related to COVID-19 as listed in reason number 2
  5. You’re caring for your child whose school or place of care is closed (or unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons
  6. You’re experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Who Is Eligible For Benefits?

There are a few different classifications of employees that qualify for different benefits under the FFCRA. 

Some employers don’t have to provide benefits at all. Others may only have to provide certain benefits.

Employers the FFCRA Doesn’t Apply To

If you work for a private sector employer that employs 500 or more employees, this law doesn’t apply to you. 

Private sector employers with less than 50 employees may also apply to the U.S. Secretary of Labor to be exempt from the law. If the business qualifies, you may not receive benefits.

Private Sector Employees and Certain Public Section Employees

Employees that work for a private sector employer with less than 500 employees, as well as certain public sector employees, may qualify for all three benefits listed in the “What Benefits Are Available” subsections as long as it is for a qualifying reason. 

In order to take advantage of the 2/3rds pay (up to limits) for up to 12 weeks, you must have been employed for at least 30 days prior to your leave request.

Federal Government Employees Not Covered Under Title I of the FMLA

According to the Department of Labor, most federal employees aren’t covered under Title I of the FMLA. This means most federal employees will qualify for the benefits described in these sections above:

  • 100% pay up to limits for up to two weeks
  • 2/3rds pay up to limits for up to two weeks

It also means most federal employees will not qualify for the benefits described in this section above:

  • 2/3rd pay up to limits for up to 12 weeks

That said, these employees can qualify for 2/3rds of their pay for reason 5 (listed above) for a two week period.

Federal Government Employees Covered Under Title I of the FMLA

For the federal government employees that are covered under Title 1 of the FMLA, they get access to the benefits listed in all three subsections in the “What Benefits Are Available” section.

Can I Get Fired For Using This Sick Leave?

According to the Department of Labor, employers cannot discharge, discipline or otherwise discriminate against any employee who lawfully takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA.

Who Is Paying for My Paid Leave?

If you qualify and take paid leave under these benefits, you might be wondering who is paying for it. Technically, your employer has to front the money for your paid leave. 

That said, your employer will probably get the money back. A payroll tax credit will be allowed to offset the costs. Unfortunately, the tax credit can’t exceed the payroll tax due from an employer during a period. 

If they have more qualifying costs from this leave than payroll taxes owed, they have to wait until the next quarter to claim the rest of the credit. 

This means employers have to front the cash for this leave and wait to receive the benefit until the payroll taxes exceed the amount of the leave taken. This means employers may have to finance the cost of this benefit until they get the payroll tax credit.

Do These Benefits Apply for Leave Taken Before April 1, 2020?

No, these benefits do not apply retroactively. That means any leave taken before April 1, 2020 in relation to coronavirus does not have to be paid under this law. 

However, it does not count against the leave you are entitled to under this law if your employer did provide you with paid leave prior to April 1, 2020.

Are There Other Rules or Exceptions?

While we’ve done our best to summarize your paid leave options under the FFCRA, the law is lengthy and complex. 

There may be other rules and exceptions or future rulings that change how this law works. 
If you have questions about this law, consult the Department of Labor website or your human resources department.