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What Employers Need To Know About The COVID-19 Leave Legislation | Part 1

Capitol Hill where the newest legislation passed for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

While there is much uncertainty concerning the coronavirus (COVID-19), one thing is clear - the House of Representatives and Senate have passed new legislation to mitigate the risks of the current pandemic. This is a stressful time for everyone, including leave case managers, so we want to provide you with the most up-to-date information from a leave management perspective.

To address COVID-19, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on March 18th,  2020, titled the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which will be effective on April 1st, 2020. There are two components to this legislation, one being the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act which provides American workers with 12 weeks of job-protected, partially paid FMLA leave. The other component, known as the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, provides American employees with two weeks of paid sick leave.

Here’s everything you need to know about the two components of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act

Eligibility Criteria & Reasons for Leave

Employers with fewer than 500 employees and covered public-sector employers (any size) are obligated to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected, partially paid FMLA leave to employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days (either full-time or part-time) when the reason for leave is “a qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” In this instance, a “qualifying need” is for employees who are incapable of working from home or teleworking because of one of these reasons:

  • The employee needs to care for a child when the child’s school is closed (due to a public health emergency). 
  • The employee needs to care for a child because the child’s care provider isn’t available (due to a public health emergency).

Amount of Leave and Pay Provided

Employees are first provided with 10 unpaid days of leave but have the option of using paid leave that has been accrued (vacation, personal, or sick leave) during this time. After the first segment of unpaid FMLA leave, the remaining FMLA leave must be paid at a rate of two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate (limited to no more than $200/day and a total of $10,000).

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

Eligibility Criteria & Reasons for Sick Leave

This Act covers the following employers:

  • Employers who are in the private sector with less than 500 employees
  • Public agencies (federal/state governments, political subdivisions and schools)
  • Any other organization that isn’t a private entity (i.e. public transportation systems)
  • Anyone who is acting indirectly or directly in the interests of the employer

Employees are automatically eligible provided that their employers meet one of the above eligibility requirements. 

Employers are required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to employees (who are unable to work from home or telework) for the following reasons:

  1. Quarantine/self-isolation in compliance with an order from the federal, state, or local level, related to COVID-19.
  2. Quarantine/self-isolation as advised by a health care provider due to COVID-19.
  3. Employee is seeking a medical diagnosis because they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  4. Employee is caring for an individual (such as a family member) who is subjected or advised to self-isolate because they have been diagnosed with or have symptoms related to COVID-19. 
  5. Employee is caring for a child whose school/place of care has been closed, or child care is unavailable because of COVID-19.
  6. Employee is experiencing conditions as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  

Under the Act, certain health care providers and emergency responders are excluded from the definition of “employee,” allowing employers to deny these workers sick leave.

The new act provides anti-retaliation protections for employees who take this leave or issue a complaint under it. As with other similar laws, this act provides penalties for failure to pay wages.

Amount of Leave & Pay

The amount of paid leave depends on whether the employee is full-time or part-time

Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours at their regular rate of pay. If the employee is caring for a family member (reasons 4-6, mentioned above), they are paid two-thirds of their regular rate. 

Part-time employees are entitled to the average number of hours the employee works over a two week period. 

Paid leave is limited to $511 per day (no more than $5,110 in total) for leave taken for the first 3 reasons (employee is taking sick leave for themself) and $200 per day ($2000 in total) for reasons 4-6 (employee is taking sick leave to care for others). 

Along with all of this new legislation, Puerto Rico is also considering implementing unpaid emergency leave in response to COVID-19. This leave would provide 20 days of unpaid leave for employees who have symptoms or an actual diagnosis of COVID-19.

Presagia is closely monitoring the legal and business landscape to ensure the highest state of readiness to respond to any legislation changes enacted or other proposals now and on the horizon.

About Presagia

Founded in 1987, Presagia has a long history of helping organizations solve complex business problems with easy-to-use solutions. Today, this means providing cloud-based absence management solutions that enable organizations to be more efficient, control lost time and risk, and strengthen compliance with federal, state and municipal leave and accommodation laws.

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