The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed by Congress on March 18, and went into effect April 2.
The act provides emergency paid sick leave and expands the Family and Medical Leave Act. The provisions apply through Dec. 31.
Who is covered by Families First?
Paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the Families First apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Most employees of the federal government are covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was not amended by Families First, and are not covered by the expanded family and medical leave provisions of the act.
Even so, federal employees covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act are covered by the paid sick leave portion.
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave because of school closings or child care unavailability if such requirements jeopardize the ongoing viability of that small business.
What does Families First provide to employees?
Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay when the employee is unable to work because an employee is quarantined (pursuant to a federal, state or local government order or on the advice of a health care provider) or the employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
Or the employee is covered under a provision that provides two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because he or she is unable to work because of a genuine need to care for an individual subject to quarantine or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the secretaries of the departments of Treasury and Labor.
A covered employer must also provide to employees — for at least 30 days — as many as an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay when an employee is unable to work due to a legitimate need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
Can an employee take 80 hours of paid sick leave for self-quarantine and then an additional amount of paid sick leave for another reason provided under the emergency paid sick leave act?
No. While an employee may take up to two work weeks of paid sick leave for any combination of qualifying reasons, the total number of hours for which they can receive paid sick leave is capped at 80 hours under the act.
When are employees allowed to work from home under Families First?
Employees may telework once their employer permits them to perform work while they are at home or at a location other than their normal workplace. Normal wages must be paid for telework and they are not compensated under the paid leave provisions of Families First.
What employee expenses are covered by Families First?
Covered employers qualify for a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under the act. Applicable tax credits also extend to amounts paid or incurred by employers to maintain health insurance coverage.