we have a new paid (paid!) sick and family leave law

I’m switching to five posts a day this week because there’s so much to talk about. There’s still one more coming after this one…

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which became law last week, offers some American workers expanded family and medical leave — and it’s paid. That’s a key difference from the leave already provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which protects your job but doesn’t require you to be paid while you’re out.

This new law only applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees and some public agencies. If you work for a larger private company, none of this covers you. But if you’re at a covered company, you are eligible for:

• Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of expanded family and medical leave at your regular rate of pay (up to $511 per day and $5,110 over a two-week period) if you’re unable to work because you’re quarantined (via a government order or on the advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis

• Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds of your regular rate of pay (up to $200 per day and $2,000 over a two-week period) if you are unable to work because you need to care for someone subject to quarantine (via a government order or on the advice of a health care provider)

• Up to an additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave (on top of the two above) at two-thirds of your regular rate of pay (up to $200 per day and $2,000 over a two-week period) if you are unable to work because you need to care for a child (under 18 years old) whose school or child care provider is closed for reasons related to COVID-19, and if you have been employed there for at least 30 days

If you’re a health care provider or emergency responder, your employer may exclude you from this leave. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability, if it would jeopardize the viability of the business.

Employers will receive tax credits to offset the costs of providing this paid leave.

Employers cannot require employees to find a replacement worker for themselves or require them to use other paid time off.

These provisions apply through December 31, 2020.

{ 105 comments… read them below }

  1. WFHwithmyDoggo*

    This may not be the right place to ask this – but does anyone know if there’s anything that a freelancer/self-employed person can apply for during this time? My husband is a self-employed photographer with no work or money coming in right now – I did some searching but literally cannot find if there’s any option for him out there.

    1. Brett*

      There is not yet, but the phase 3 bill being debated in the senate right now would include provisions for unemployment (up to $600/week) for self-employed and independent contractors based on their 2018 or 2019 tax filing.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        It depends on your state too. My state is allowing self-employed people to apply for unemployment.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Ditto. Check your state’s current rules, and watch for new ones.

          A photographer friend of mine shifted to putting some of his older photos online for sale. This might be a time to explore that.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            My problem with this is that a lot of the online store platforms charge you up front, per listing, or else a flat fee per month.

    2. Pam*

      I know that various arts organizations have emergency grants. Perhaps searching for some of those, or checking with professional organizations would find something.

    3. Liz W*

      Some states are expanding unemployment to people that are contractors or self-employed, but federally, there’s nothing yet.

    4. artsadministrator*

      I work with a lot of independent contractors and have been trying to get to the bottom of this. It is very confusing and changing quickly. One possible source of relief is connected to major disaster declarations made by the federal gov’t, which can trigger the release of DUA (disaster unemployment assistance), which can include the self-employed. The rules for unemployment will vary by state (am assuming you are in the US?). This was a helpful article for me, (not sure if we are allowed to use links?) https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/thought-leadership/self-insured-nonprofits-and-unemployment-insurance

    5. Social Distancing, What's That?*

      My mom is a sole proprietor, she can’t even file for unemployment. I hope they put something together ASAP. She’s basically ruined.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        I just submitted a comment with links to some resources/grants – it should take a minute to go through moderation, but it will be a reply to the comment below yours. I hope your mom finds something helpful in the list!

    6. BuildMeUp*

      I work in the film industry, and it’s been really difficult!

      I have a couple of links saved with lists of potential resources. I haven’t looked into the ones that don’t apply to me, so I don’t know how many still have money available, but hopefully there are some options for your husband! Links to follow in reply.

    7. Non-profiteer*

      There are provisions in the bill that already passed for a tax credit for the self-employed. If you fall into one of the leave categories in the bill, you could get the feds to reimburse you for wages through a tax credit. However, it’s not just being out of work because everyone is – it’s specific situations like you can’t work because of an official quarantine, or caring for someone who is sick, or caring for children whose school is closed. Not a blanket tax credit. But still, check it out. There’s something in there for self-employed.

    8. Claire*

      If you don’t mind sharing, what state are you in? Some states do offer limited benefits for freelancers under certain circumstances, but I’m not sure if that would apply to your husband.

    1. Captain Kirk*

      I think the argument being that smaller companies are the least likely to be able to weather this storm and offer paid sick leave to employees. This allows them to do so, and hopefully keeps the small companies open, employing workers.

      1. anongradstudent*

        If anything this makes it more difficult on small business though, it requires them to cover the costs up front and get tax credits later to offset the cost. total BS.

      1. Ms Mash*

        So true. Think about all the large companies the don’t provide any benefits at all.

        Yeah, I’m talking about you McDonald’s.

        1. Yes Anastasia*

          My sister works at a McDonald’s owned by a franchise with more than 500 employees. It’s driving me bonkers that none of this legislation will help her stay home if she needs to.

        2. Quill*

          Or large companies that provide benefits… but the majority of their affected workforce is technically “contract to hire” and therefore not covered by them…

      1. blackcat*

        This is so incredibly frustrating, as a person with a pending COVID test, super sick, and running around after a child while my husband still has to log hours (he’s sick too, but less so, and he is WFH).

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        The businesses are getting a tax break next year to cover the cost and they didn’t want to provide tax breaks to the large employers, supposedly.

      3. ???*

        I cynically suspected that to be the case but it’s incredible to me that such an unfair exemption for the businesses that have the most resources was approved.

      4. Linguist*

        As a deeply socialist European, I extend my heartfelt sympathies. I simply cannot imagine how infuriating it must be for this kind of thing to be par for the course.

        (Don’t get me wrong… a long way still to go over here as well, but still.)

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      Republican politicians who sold out workers in favor of their high-level donors.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        There’s no bottom to their evil. Every time I think they’ve hit it they just sink lower.

  2. Cheese Please*

    This is great! Thank you for sharing Allison. However, I’m assuming this wouldn’t cover me because I am currently furloughed due to the state shutting down “non life-sustaining businesses” and my company not being able to manage work from home processes. I am not clear what “subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19” really means since my company COULD HAVE allowed us to WFH but doesn’t have the resources to do so.

    If I am covered, what is the best way to contact the HR office asking how this will be implemented?

    1. jm*

      i suggest you reach out to your direct supervisor first, if you can. HR departments are probably fielding tons of calls right now. i hope this law helps you and your colleagues!

      1. Cheese Please*

        I have applied! I’m just seeing that this law would cover my regular rate of pay, which is more than my unemployment benefits

        1. Brett*

          If the phase 3 bill passes, it includes a provision to increase unemployment benefits to cover an additional $600/week.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Reading this, it sounds like it’s to try to elevate the unemployment claims and put some of the burden back on business instead of the EI system.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It reads to me like you’re most likely covered under this, it shouldn’t really matter if they just gave up on the WFH idea even though it may have been something that’d work. They are closed due to the mandate in place.

      I’d reach out to your supervisor and see if it’s something they’re able to help out with or if you need to go straight to HR.

    3. HR Learning as We Go*

      @Cheese Please the act does not go into effect until April 2nd. Unfortunately, we have seen many of the companies in our industry see the current period as an opportunity to “downsize” before it goes into effect.

      1. Stevie*

        My husband’s company is owned and run by total assholes (stupid ones, at that). The owner gleefully reminded employees last week that they weren’t covered under FMLA because they had fewer than 50 employees. When they realized that they weren’t automatically excluded under the new law, they told managers not to worry, that their attorney was already working on an exemption request.

        So far one employee is staying home because of a cough, one because of a high fever, one is ‘not feeling well’, but managers are absolutely forbidden to tell any other employees about this (gossip spreads faster than memos, though).

        1. demosthenes*

          As much as we would love to use any of these programs to help our employees, our company has almost reached the point that nothing is left to give to employees if we were required to under this bill. But we have laid off so many employees we are now operating at 28% of our previous work force and would no longer be required to pay under this bill.

          We are researching anything that will help our employees. We are going down, we aren’t being paid currently. Just trying to keep people afloat until they can move on to a new place after this is over.

          1. Stevie*

            You know, I can understand small business owners struggling to make this work. This family has a history of treating employees badly (they’re of the ‘you’re stupid and lazy and lucky to have a job’ philosophy) and were very aggressive about celebrating that they would probably get out of it. They’re the ones that ruin it for everyone else :-(

            I hope your company is able to find resources to carry you through.

  3. BTDT*

    It will kill my small business while the big guys with lobbying power get a pass. It should have applied to every business with 12 or more employees and provided direct government payment to employees of businesses with less than 12 employees.

    1. Cheese Please*

      There’s a note that says “Certain provisions may not apply to certain employers with fewer than 50 employees. See Department FFCRA regulations (expected April 2020).” So I would watch the site carefully.

      1. BTDT*

        You have to apply for an exemption- just what every small business owner needs- more paperwork.

    2. Molly*

      Can you imagine the cost to the tax system if every 50,000 employer received tax credits for implenting this? No corporation would owe income taxes, on top of enjoying an already reduced corporate tax rate.

    3. SweetestCin*

      I don’t disagree. Tax credits do not assist in payment of accounts-payable this month or next. I know we’re watching for information about the smallest small businesses like a hawk over here. (It certainly feels as though the way in which the healthcare and insurance systems in the US are set up are to prevent competition from small business…)

  4. AdLady*

    First time caller, long time fan! I work for an ad agency of around 200 employees. But we are owned but a huge holding company that owns hundreds of agencies, based on that would we be covered? Thank you!

    1. Chompers*

      I can’t say for certain yet because I don’t know if it’s been decided, but I think it would depend on if they have a separate EIN for each of the businesses. I am in HR for a company that has 2 companies under a “controlled group” – so for things like the 1094/1095C filings, it combines all employees for numbers’ sake. We’re currently trying to figure out if, like you asked, it will apply to the entire controlled group, which would put us over 500, or if it’ll be separated by EIN, which would make one of our companies eligible. Everything we have read so far says that haven’t decided, but everything is also changing minute by minute.

  5. BB*

    My company is considering us essential while our state is on a stay-at-home order. However we are splitting the staff in half and working on and off for 5 weeks to lower the number of people here at once.
    Currently we have the option of taking our weeks off 1. Using PTO 2. Unpaid or 3. Paid but we must make up the hours during the next year.

    Does this override that? Are they allowed to do this? Really unsure because are state is telling us to stay at home but our employer is claiming we are essential. Honestly, this is all so confusing.

    1. demosthenes*

      Our order states that all businesses are essential and to stay open if we can. The other side of this that people may not see is that we have been advised by employment lawyers that if we close, our employees cannot receive help for many of these bills because we should have stayed open. It’s hard to know what to do so people can receive the maximum help as we close down.

    2. Aitch Arr*

      “Paid but we must make up the hours during the next year.”

      How is that supposed to work?

      1. Claire*

        Definitely curious about that–assuming that BB is non-exempt, based on their comment, the only thing I could think of is that the company is planning on not paying the time next year, which would be illegal. That is to say, if you don’t work one week and still get paid for 40 hours, some companies will think that they can have you work four 50 hour weeks and only get paid for 40 hours, which would “make up” the time, but that’s 5000% not allowed.

        BB, is that what you’re describing? Because tbqh your comment overall seems…questionably legal. I’m also wondering why your employer is saying that you’re essential–afaik most states have a list of “essential” workers, so if the state doesn’t say you’re essential, I don’t think your employer can just decide that you are.

    3. AnonJ*

      My understanding is that the 2 weeks emergency leave that would apply to you is in addition to whatever other leave you have available and your employer cannot force you to use other leave first, rather than the new emergency leave. It is ON TOP of whatever PTO you have available, is to be made available for use once the law kicks in on April 2, and if your qualify for the emergency paid leave they can’t force you to use up your other PTO first.

  6. Liz S.*

    I’ve actually read through & reviewed this bill! I don’t have an answer to all the questions being asked in the comments, but:
    – if you’re self-employed or a freelancer/contractor, you can also receive a tax credit to essentially give yourself sick/family leave under these provisions. (Note that this does NOT apply to you if you’re just low on business. It has to be for quarantine, Covid19 symptoms, caring for someone sick with Covid19, or taking care of a kid whose school is closed.) The Phase 3 bill may end up offering this as an advance rather than just a tax credit, but as it stands you’ll be refunded the money when you file your 2020 taxes.
    – this isn’t unemployment compensation/anything like that. There *are* new federal provisions for unemployment compensation, but the stuff Allison is talking about is specific to this kind of leave.
    – as Allison wrote, employers of fewer than 50 individuals can request an exemption, and health care professions can choose not to implement it.
    – your employer can require you to use any normal PTO you have in place of the paid sick leave. However, as far as I know, they cannot claim that because you have already used up an amount of PTO that meets the criteria, you’ve already been covered — they *must* provide you with the amounts of leave provided for in the bill.
    – unemployment compensation, stay-at-home orders and essential vs. nonessential workers, and things like that are conducted through your state or local government, not the federal government — check out what resources your state government’s website is putting out.

    1. Mim*

      Wait, so my company can force me to use all my vacation time, which means I’m basically working myself to the point of exhaustion trying to homeschool and work some work hours from home (unable to work full time because of childcare/homeschooling), and then don’t get a vacation later this year because I don’t get any of these benefits unless I apply all my time now? That is… not a solution. It makes me want to just burn it all down. (Figuratively.) I’m glad this will help some people, but I am incredibly unimpressed at how this won’t do a thing for me.

      1. Chompers*

        I know things are changing frequently right now, but what I read was that an employee can elect, but is not required, to have this new sick leave apply before any other sick leave. If you’re taking the expanded FMLA, you can elect to use other paid leave for the 10 days of unpaid leave, so maybe that’s what that’s about?

        1. Miriam*

          My employer has already told us that if there were paid benefits like this offered, we’d probably have to use our PTO first. *sob*

          Luckily we are all healthy, so I don’t qualify for regular FMLA (yet, knock on wood). But I could really have used some actual relief from trying to work while homeschool. My kid also has some special needs, but no IEP yet because we were supposed to have evaluations soon.

          It’s okay. At this point I think I’ve moved past anger to just numbness. I know it could be worse. My husband, who makes a lot more than me, could also be facing this. We could be ill. I could lose my job. (I think it’s not unlikely.) I don’t think I’m at acceptance yet, but just plain old emotional numbness is a healthy reaction to all of this right? (laughs maniacally)

      2. Spargle*

        A lot of the incentives being talked about won’t help me at all because they’re based on 2018 income. I made a lot more money in 2018 than I do now. :/. I feel your frustration.

      1. Liz S.*

        Oops, sorry! There were like three versions of the bill before it passed — must have been thinking about v2.

  7. Rusty Shackelford*

    Do we know if any of these provisions apply to part-time employees?

    Does “quarantined” include people who are not individually under quarantine, but their employers have been ordered/chosen to shut down?

    1. Chompers*

      Part time employees are paid at their hourly rate using their average hours over a 2 week period, instead of the 80 hours.

    1. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

      Your name is so apt. I had to tell so many employees “we know as much about this as you do at this point.” when they’re emailing me the MINUTE they watched the press conference last week.

      1. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

        No, but lots of people have already been affected and have been asking questions (to me, probably to HR Learning as We Go too) about if it applies to them in the right here and now. It is an important detail for people to know.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        My employer is over the 500 margin, but I’m already sick and been tested (negative). I’m actually negative on PTO now because I was OOO for 6 days. This will surely do good for quite a lot of people, but the early infected will see little to no benefit (unless the infection is severe enough to be debilitating for months).

  8. Person from the Resume*

    I am not impacted by this. Already work from home full time for a federal entity with adequate benefits including annual and sick leave. (I’m a 15+ year employee so I maxed out my leave benefits.)

    I’m not sure if I should be pleased by this or not. Long overdue except the fact that it doesn’t apply to large businesses sucks. Large businesses should not (probably aren’t) be running so close to the red that they can’t provide adequate sick leave without government help anyway. But Tax credits don’t provide the business money now to pay those people who aren’t working while businesses is super slow. Not that these businesses should not have already been providing adequate sick leave, but to spring on this potentially costly new expense on them during an economic collapse will make it harder for them to survive, and then their employees don’t have a job.

    Plus is goes away in less than a year.

    So I’m thinking this isn’t a win. But I’m practically a socialist so I think the government should be providing or legislating this kind of protection for everyone already but with a thought out, sustainable model.

  9. ynotlot*

    Ugh, this is so confusing. Zero information on the DOL site on WHEN it goes into effect. Zero information that is usable for employers trying to figure out how on earth to implement this or figure out if we even fall under it, especially for small employers. References forms, notices, exception processes, waiver processes that literally don’t exist yet. How are we supposed to figure out how to enact this? /vent

    1. ynotlot*

      Also struggling to figure out if this is allowed/supposed to come from PTO first, or a separate category? Who is supposed to be coming up with this money, the employer? And wait for it to be reimbursed someday?
      I also can’t find the info on whether we can get an exemption/how to do so. We have 13 employees. We were fortunately granted a waiver to stay open during our state’s shutdown because we provide services to essential businesses.
      Frustration directed at no one, I’m glad something was passed and I know we are all doing our best. Just exhausted and confused.

      1. Small Business Owner*

        This may not help, but here’s what I think I sussed out from the link Alison shared:
        This is separate from whatever PTO you already offer. For the reduced pay options, I think it says that the employee could choose to use PTO first (to get 100% pay, instead of a reduction), but that we can’t impose they have to use existing sick/PTO leave in our current benefit package. (I guess the upside is you aren’t going to get a tax credit for regular PTO they use; you will for Covid time, which is what I believe I will name it in our payroll system.)

        And yes, it seems the employer will front this money — the wages, taxes, and health insurance. The reimbursement will be for all of it (that was at least some relief!), but via tax credits. So… probably not until next April? I’m guessing “they” would advise getting one of those new 0% interest Covid loans in the meantime, if you need cash flow until those tax credits come through?

        Someone should make a damn flowchart to link all of this stuff into a decision tree – one for employers and one for employees. All of these disparate pieces are so hard to keep track of.

        I agree with frustration directed at no one. Worries about keeping people employed, being humane, without losing everything I’ve worked so hard build, is literally keeping me up at night.

    2. HR Learning as We Go*

      It was signed into law on March 18th and goes into effect on April 2nd, based on what we in the HR/Payroll field are learning. Trust me, though, the DOL has a ton of other things to clear up, not least of which includes questions about payroll deductions, including child support and health insurance, taxation rules, etc. As a business with more than 50 employees (130) we are encapsulated by this; however, if every employee with children under 18 took advantage of the 80% FMLA leave to care for their children, since daycares/schools in our area are closed, we would lose 98% of our workforce (I checked to see how many of our workforce have dependents under 18) and my company would essentially be paying 80% of our normal payroll costs with 2% of the output which = no revenue. We obviously would not be able to sustain that for the entire potential 12 weeks We are all eagerly awaiting clarification on a number of questions about this.

      1. Small Business Owner*

        I noticed that the link Alison shared emphasizes that the expanded FML is “if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework)… ” — “unable to telework” is in bold.

        You probably have more insight than I do, but… I’m hanging on to that bolded phrase HARD. Since my staff can and are teleworking (with flexibility, knowing kids are home), my read is that they do not have the option to take the 80% pay FML time off solely for school coverage. Or am I living in the clouds?

        I agree with you, if people can opt for 80% pay and 100% time off if they have kids at home, regardless of telework options… we could lose our workforce. I get it as a good protection for people who have jobs that require them to come in (leaving kids home alone); but where telework is an option, I feel that has to negate that. (Maybe that’s not an option at your company though.)

  10. QCI*

    The worst part is, you see it and think the government actually did something good for once, and then you read it and find out how little it actually covers.

    1. Clever Name*

      Yeah. This is my feeling as well. I want paid sick leave for all workers! And not just due to Coronavirus. Also having access to affordable healthcare no longer being tied to employment .

  11. Hedgehog*

    Does anyone know how the teleworking piece will be implemented in combination with the kids-out-of-school piece? My employer is luckily fully set up for us all to work remotely (and we have been for over a week now), but that doesn’t stop the incessant interruptions from kids out of school! I’d love any kind of clarity on those aspects of the bill!

    1. IT bad guy*

      Not quite sure what you are asking? If you are able to completely work from home then I assume you are receiving your full pay? You want additional pay for your children interrupting you?

      1. Hedgehog*

        No, not at all! I’m wondering if the leave would cover us even if we’re able to work from home– so instead of being 100% paid and expected to put in full hours, choosing to go on leave for parenting/home-schooling purposes and being paid 66% instead. Sorry for the confusion!

      2. Just some internet rando*

        I want additional pay for my kid interrupting me! Someone please pass that bill!

      3. Overeducated*

        That is quite an assumption. Where I work, we have to track that and take leave for the time those interruptions take us away from work. I’m currently working at about 75% pay as a result, using some remaining unpaid FMLA hours from childbirth a few months ago. It would be nice to have that time paid….

    2. nonegiven*

      Maybe you can hire a high school student that is out of school to come in for a few hours after they’ve done their studies?

      1. Person from the Resume*

        No! Do not bring another person into your home when you’re supposed to social distance.

        1. Hoosonfirst*

          This is the exact bind all of us parents are in. We can’t get sitters. We can’t ask our parents to help. So yes, I’m households with kids and both parents “working from home” it’s not possible to actually meet full time hours. I was also curious about whether parents could work part time and elect the family leave to cover a portion.

  12. Eng*

    It’s slightly better than nothing I guess but I feel like many employers can and will just fire employees rather than pay this out, I don’t think “whether they have a sick kid at home” could be argued to be a protected class.

    Note that I don’t think that’s a moral thing to do, just that I think it will happen.

    1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      I know this is supposed to be helping small businesses not have to lay off employees, but I’m struggling to see how this is going to be any real help in real-time.

      Per footnote [1]: “…every dollar of expanded family and medical leave (plus the cost of the employer’s health insurance premiums during leave) will be 100% covered by a dollar-for-dollar refundable tax credit available to the employer.”

      So many small businesses don’t have the money to be paying for this right now – that’s the whole problem! With little to no revenue coming in, there is either enough cash on hand to pay to keeps the lights on for 3 months and hopefully have a business for the employees to come back to, or there is enough to provide full pay for 2 weeks and then go under entirely. It’s great the federal government is kind of looking to pay for the leave, but it’s not going to do any good as a tax credit for a business that no longer exists. Employers need that money now/the federal government should be the ones paying out.

  13. Ciela*

    and while my company should qualify under this to be reimbursed, if any of us need to take sick leave, we will NOT get paid, not even the normal 3 weeks / year we should get because apparently a multi-million dollar company only had enough reserve to cover 2-3 weeks of expenses. WTF?!?
    My husband and I have more in our IRA’s than our employer has?!?!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I just clinched.

      Is this what your company is telling you about their reserves or are you in a position to know what their reserves look like?

      I’m saying this as someone who’s seen people lie through their teeth left and right about what they can “afford” as a business. While they’re more than able to spring for those extra expenses.

      But I come from a long line of having to have huge reserves in place because what happens when your big ass machine[s] need massive repairs or replacement? You need a downpayment to even get a loan, so running on a shoestring budget is unheard of in many cases. But they’ll sure tell you to your face as someone outside of their pockets that there’s nothing in there but dust!

      1. Ciela*

        they told us that there was only enough money for 2-3 weeks before they would have to close the business. What about an SBA loan? Supposedly the bosses both took a 50% pay cut, which still has the bringing home more than any employee (that I do know)

        Also, no more monthly bonuses, or matching contributions to our IRA’s.

        We did have a very large piece of machinery, ummm, catch fire last year. It was replaced the next day. It cost about the same as that 2-3 weeks worth of operating expenses.

Comments are closed.