Law Requires Paid Sick Leave, FMLA Benefits – April 2020


LEGISLATION SIGNED into law by President Trump extends sick leave benefits for workers who are stricken by the coronavirus, as well as provide for additional weeks of time off under the Family Medical Leave Act so they can be guaranteed of being able to return to their jobs afterwards.
Employers need to pay extra attention to the added paid sick leave and FMLA provisions of this new law, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which only applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Paid sick leave

Employees are entitled to two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick time for coronavirus-related issues. Eligible workers must be paid their regular pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in total.
Those caring for someone subject to quarantine due to COVID-19, and parents of kids who can’t go to school or daycare, will receive two-thirds of their regular pay, up to $200 daily with a $2,000 cap. The emergency sick leave benefit can be used immediately, regardless of how long the worker has been employed with you. The law does not require certification of an order by the government or a health care provider. But employers can require reasonable notice procedures, such as not announcing in the middle of a shift that they take COVID-19 sick leave. They cannot require the employee to find a replacement worker to cover the shifts they will miss. Employers must post the law’s requirements “in conspicuous places.”
Employers are not allowed to discipline a worker who takes this sick or FMLA leave for coronavirus purposes. If an employer refuses to provide the leave, they can be subject to paying back pay and statutory damages.
Important: This law provides payroll tax credits to offset costs of providing paid leaves.

FMLA

The law provides for 10 additional weeks of FMLA leave, but only for those who must stay at home to care for a child whose school is closed or their childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19- related issues. These 10 weeks will be paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day with a cap of $10,000. They will also receive 12 weeks of leave
with job protection, though employers of health care or emergency care providers can exclude such employees. The employee would likely use up their two weeks of paid sick leave before applying
for FMLA benefits, which unlike traditional FMLA (which is unpaid), are paid leaves after the first 10 days under the new law. Employees who have been working for more than 30 days are eligible, and the employer can require them to provide reasonable notice that they are taking leave.

A final word

This law only applies to employers with fewer than 500 workers, so it leaves uncovered those people who work for larger companies. Also, employers need to make financial plans, as the credit
cannot be claimed until after the employer pays their payroll taxes. A bigger issue is that the law requires that workers be paid the sick leave even if they are not sick, but have been ordered to self-isolate. In states that have ordered workers to self-isolate, such as California, employers could be faced with an avalanche of paid sick leave claims all at once. This law sunsets on Dec. 31, 2020.