Due to a recent federal law, a form of emergency paid leave is available to workers who, because of the global Covid-19 pandemic, are unable to attend work for a period of time.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law and took effect on April 1, 2020. The law remains in effect until December 31, 2020. Known as the FFCRA, there are two main components to the act: emergency paid sick leave and enhancements to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”). This article focuses on the emergency paid sick leave aspect of the act.
The FFCRA Emergency Paid Sick Leave, also known as EPSL, allows for paid leave for employees who have a qualifying reason for participation in the program. Specifically, EPSL allows for paid leave to be used despite existing paid time-off benefits for up to eighty hours for all full-time employees. For part-time employees, the paid leave is available for the equivalent of the average weekly hours that the individual worked for the employer.
An employee is qualified to participate in the EPSL program if he or she is unable to work and has experienced one or more of the following: (1) subjection to a federal, state, or local stay-at-home or quarantine order specifically related to the Coronavirus, (2) an order from a medical professional or healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to potential exposure or risk of exposure to the virus, (3) symptoms of Covid-19 and related medical procedures, (4) the need to care for another who was required to quarantine, (5) the need to care of a child due to school or daycare closure related to the Coronavirus, or (6) any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
In cases where an individual is tasked with providing care to another, he or she is eligible to receive 2/3 of his or her regular pay for up to two weeks under EPSL.
A particularly unique aspect of this leave program is that employers cannot make employees use other forms of leave first. This means that EPSL leave can be used even if the employee has reserved paid time off. The program is limited to the year 2020 and will not carry into 2021. Unlike some forms of regular paid time off, the employer has no obligation to pay employees for unused EPSL time.
Additionally, this form of leave is only accessible to employees where work remains available. If a business has closed, even temporarily, due to the Coronavirus, EPSL cannot be used. In this circumstance, employees should seek unemployment compensation benefits, rather than protection under FFCRA.
Employees wishing to use EPSL must notify their employers of their intent. Both employees and employers should keep dutiful records of their use of the program. It is important that lines of communication between both parties are kept open. For example, employees should be upfront about their needs. Similarly, employers should be understanding and adaptive.
Attorneys at Ruppert Manes Narahari are able to help guide both employees and employers through the new program during this unusual and often challenging time. Schedule your consultation today by contacting our office.
For more information on FFCRA or the FMLA legislation, continue to read our series on the new law, or visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave.