New Paid Sick Leave Requirements for Employers During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Congress has responded to the coronavirus pandemic with new leave requirements that apply to most small and midsize employers and nonprofits, and all government employers. Large employers (those with more than 500 employees) are excluded from the requirements. The law creates new paid leave and expands the Family Medical Leave Act to provide a combination of paid and unpaid leave for employees impacted by the coronavirus. It also creates a tax credit for employers to offset the cost of the required paid leave. Read our summary of the law and its requirements here, and contact any one of us at HGRS for guidance on the new leave requirements or any of the other employment and business implications of the coronavirus (C-19).
Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL)
Up to eighty (80) hours of EPSL is available for employees who cannot work or telework due to one of six medical care or quarantine reasons related to the C-19 public health emergency. EPSL is not available for medical reasons unrelated to the C-19 emergency.
· The six qualifying reasons are:
- The employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation order related to C-19.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to C-19.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of C-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in #1 or has been advised as described in #2.
- The employee is caring for a minor child because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or the child’s childcare provider is unavailable, due to C-19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
· Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of EPSL and part-time employees are entitled to an amount of EPSL based on the average number of hours worked over a two-week period.
· If an employee is sick, EPSL is paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay, capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.
· If an employee is caring for another, EPSL is paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day and $2,000 aggregate.
· EPSL is available immediately to all employees, regardless of the hours or length of time the employee has been employed, and employers may not require that employees use other paid leave first.
· Employers cannot terminate or otherwise take adverse action against an employee because they take EPSL.
· Employers must post a notice of EPSL rights where other workplace posters are located. The Department of Labor will publish a model notice by March 25, 2020.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (E-FMLA)
· E-FMLA job-protected leave is available to employees who cannot work or telework because they need to care for their minor child due to school closure or other lack of childcare caused by the C-19 public health emergency.
· Unlike existing FMLA leave, ALL employers with 1 to 500 employees must provide E-FMLA leave, and an employee need be employed only 30 days to be eligible.
· E-FMLA leave begins with 10 days of unpaid leave followed by paid leave at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay, capped at $200/day and $10,000 in aggregate. Employees are still limited to 12 weeks of FMLA-qualifying leave – including E-FMLA – within a one-year period. This limit includes FMLA already taken by an employee. Existing paid leave or EPSL may be used in lieu of the unpaid first ten days of E-FMLA leave.
Upcoming financial relief for employers
Congress is already working on phase 3 of the C-19 legislation, which will focus on additional financial relief for employers hit hardest by the pandemic, and employers struggling to pay for these temporary employee benefits. The package is expected to include up to $300 billion to cover full federal guarantees for private loans to small businesses with up to 500 employees. A proposed “Business Interruption Loan Program” would cover up to 6 weeks of total payroll expenses, with a maximum of $1540 per employee per week. Both Georgia and Florida have already enacted state-level financial relief including loan programs for certain businesses hurt by COVID-19. For more information on these loans, please contact us.
As we move ahead in these unprecedented times, our firm is here for you to provide legal guidance and counseling at any time. Do not hesitate to contact us, and stay safe and healthy.