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Families First Coronavirus Response Act: What Does It Mean For Workers?

Erin Heidrich

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on March 18, 2020.  What does the Act mean for workers?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act contains two key provisions that may impact workers: first, the Act expands Family and Medical Leave Rights (called the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act).  Second, the Act gives employees a right to paid leave in certain circumstances (called the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act).  These laws become effective on April 2, 2020 and expire at the end of the year.  The laws only apply to smaller employers, with fewer than 500 employees.  (Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt in some cases).

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act that existed prior to the coronavirus pandemic continues to exist, and employees retain all of their former rights under that law.  But under the new Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, employees are eligible for leave if:

  1. Their employer has fewer than 500 employees
  2. They have been employed for 30 days
  3. They are unable to work (in person or remotely) because they need to care for a child due to a school or daycare closure.

Employees who qualify may take leave for up to 12 weeks.  The first 10 days of leave are unpaid. However, the employee may take existing paid leave during this time, or use Emergency Paid Sick Leave (explained below).

After the 10 unpaid days, the employee must be paid 2/3 of his or her regular salary or hourly rate, up to a maximum of $200/day or $10,000 total.

When an employee returns from leave, they must generally be returned to their former position or a similar position.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

Any paid leave that an employer offered prior to the coronavirus pandemic continues to exist.  But the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act creates rights to additional sick leave in certain circumstances.  Employees are entitled to paid sick leave if they cannot work (in person or remotely) for one of the following reasons:

  1. The employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation order
  2. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine
  3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  4. The employee is caring for a person who is sick or quarantined
  5. The employee is caring for children because their school or daycare is closed

Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid leave.  Part-time employees are entitled to be paid for the number of hours a day they worked, on average, in the two weeks before their leave.  The pay the employee receives depends upon the reason for the leave.

Independent contractors and self-employed individuals are eligible for refundable tax credits for days that they are unable to work.

Employees can still take whatever paid leave was available to them before this law was passed.  Employers cannot change their leave policies in response to the new law.

Employment laws are complex and, in this unprecedented situation, they are constantly changing.  As always, we are here to help you with your employment situation.