COVID-19 Legal Update: Coronavirus Act Calls for Paid Sick Time and Family LeavePDF
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which became law yesterday, requires many employers to provide paid sick time and family leave to their employees affected by the novel coronavirus. Employers can then claim payroll tax credits in the full amount paid to such employees.
This alert updates the report we sent on Tuesday regarding the bill first passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday. The House subsequently revised the original bill to limit its scope, and on Wednesday the Senate approved the revised bill and the president signed it into law. Below is a summary of the provisions of the act of most immediate interest to employers.
Emergency Paid Sick Time
The act requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide employees with up to 80 hours (pro-rated for part-time employees) of sick time at full pay (capped at $511 per day) if the employee is unable to work because:
- The employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation order by federal, state or local authorities related to the coronavirus;
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to the coronavirus; or
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus and seeking a medical diagnosis.
Similarly, the bill requires all such employers to provide employees with up to 80 hours (pro-rated for part-time employees) of sick time at two-thirds pay (capped at $200 per day) if the employee is unable to work because:
- The employee is caring for a family member who has been quarantined by the authorities or directed to self-quarantine by a health care provider due to the coronavirus;
- The employee is caring for a child whose school or day care has been closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, due to the coronavirus.
Employers may exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders from these requirements. Paid sick time under this bill must be made available in addition to paid leave available to employees under employers' existing policies. An employer may not require employees to use other paid leave provided by the employer before using this emergency paid sick time.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion
The act also grants up to 12 weeks of leave to eligible employees who need leave to care for a child whose school or day care has closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the coronavirus. This provision requires employers to provide paid leave at two-thirds of the employee's regular rate of pay (capped at $200 per day) for up to 10 weeks after two weeks of unpaid leave. Although the first two weeks are unpaid, an employer must allow an employee to substitute accrued vacation, personal leave or sick days for such unpaid leave.
This emergency family and medical provision applies only to employers with fewer than 500 employees, and employees are eligible for leave after they have been employed for at least 30 calendar days by the employer. Employers may exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders. In most instances, after leave is concluded, employers must restore the employees to the positions they held before taking leave.
Emergency Unemployment Insurance
The act provides for grants to states to pay enhanced unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who lose their jobs. In exchange for such grants, states must reduce waiting periods and job search requirements for unemployment recipients. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday issued an executive order that eliminates the one-week waiting period and job search requirements for employees affected by the coronavirus who apply for unemployment insurance benefits. Unemployment insurance benefits for such employees will not be charged to their employers.
Health Insurance Provisions
The act provides that employers, including self-insured employers, offering group or individual health benefits must provide coronavirus tests at no charge to covered individuals.
The act becomes effective no later than 15 days after enactment and expires on Dec. 31, 2020.
Robinson Bradshaw will update this alert if Congress enacts additional coronavirus legislation affecting employers. For assistance drafting and implementing coronavirus-related employment policies and guidance, please contact a member of Robinson Bradshaw's Employment and Labor Practice Group.