The intent of the new law is to provide emergency paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, as well as additional funding to food assistance and unemployment programs, in response to COVID-19

Emergency paid leave 

One of the new benefits created by the FFCRA is what’s known as “emergency paid leave.” If an individual is unable to work because COVID-19 has affected them in one of the ways detailed below, they may be able to take up to two weeks (10 workdays) off and still get paid.

How employees qualify

There are several instances where an employee will qualify for emergency paid leave, including the following:

  1. The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
  2. The employee is quarantined at the direction of a health authority or healthcare provider to prevent spread of COVID-19.
  3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a diagnosis.
  4. The employee is caring for another person who is subject to #1 or #2 above.
  5. The employee is caring for a child or another person due to closure of a school or other facility due to COVID-19.
  6. The employee is experiencing similar conditions that have been specified by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

How much paid leave

Full-time employees are eligible for 80 hours and part-time folks get their average number of hours worked in a two-week period.

Rate of pay

The amount of the benefit depends on how the employee qualifies. For example, if an individual is subject to #1, #2, or #3 above, they will be paid the greatest of:

  • Their regular rate of pay;
  • The Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage rate; or
  • The state or locality’s minimum wage rate.

The maximum benefit is $511 per day for 80 total hours (i.e., two work-weeks), which works out to a total maximum benefit of $5,110.

If an employee qualifies because of #4, #5, or #6 above, then the amount is two-thirds of the applicable rate, with a maximum benefit of $200 per day and a total max benefit of $2,000.

Conditions apply

Always! Both employers and employees are subject to some conditions under this new kind of leave. We’re breaking them out to keep things clear.

For employees:

  • Emergency paid leave does not carry over from one year to the next.
  • Emergency paid leave ends as soon as the employee’s next scheduled shift starts after they no longer qualify for the paid time.
  • Employees don’t have to find anyone to cover for them if they’re taking emergency paid leave.
  • Employees can use emergency paid leave before their regular accrued paid sick time, if they have it.
  • Emergency paid leave does not reduce other accrued leave that an employee may have already.

For employers:

  • Employers have to post all this information in a conspicuous place, like a break room. The US Department of Labor (DOL) will provide an example (usually a poster).
  • An employer cannot fire, discipline, or discriminate against any employee for using or requesting emergency paid leave.
  • Employers who are subject to bargaining agreements must contribute expected amounts to a fund, and the union will distribute to its members as requested.

Any exceptions?

Yep. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt, but only with permission from the US Secretary of Labor. Also, employees who are healthcare workers or emergency responders can be excluded by their employers because, you know, they’ll probably be working during a PHE.