the law requiring paid sick leave for Covid ends next week — and won’t be extended

Remember that new law Congress passed in March requiring paid sick leave for workers with Covid or suspected Covid, as well as paid family leave to care for someone with Covid or suspected Covid?

That’s ending. In nine days.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) only applied to employers with fewer than 500 employees and some public agencies, but it was a big deal — and it was only set to last through December 31, 2020. Congress could have extended it in the massive pandemic relief bill they passed last night … but they didn’t. (Here’s why.)

So the paid sick leave requirement will end next week, on December 31.

The new bill passed last night does still offer tax credits to employers that voluntarily provide pandemic-related paid sick leave (through March 31, 2021) — but employers will no longer be legally obligated to offer that leave.

If you’re thinking that sounds like a good way to ensure sick people come to work and spread Covid, you are correct.

Separately, the bill does include an unemployment benefits extension. It provides an additional $300/week in federal unemployment benefits on top of whatever state unemployment benefits a person is receiving. (This is similar to the $600/week federal supplement from earlier this year, which had expired in July.) It also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which offers expanded unemployment coverage for self-employed and gig workers, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits if you use up your regular state benefits. It also increases the maximum number of weeks a person can get benefits, to 50 weeks.

{ 155 comments… read them below }

  1. Generic Name*

    Thank you for keeping us all informed and explaining in plain language what the headlines mean. Do you have a sense of whether Trump is expected to sign the bill?

          1. TardyTardis*

            This could easily boomerang. Can you say ‘override’? Mitch “You don’t want to see me when I’m angry” McConnell can rustle up enough Republican votes (Dems already plan to vote for it anyway) in the Senate to make sure it goes through. And there are some Republicans in the House who don’t want hate mail at Christmas to join the Dems there, too.

  2. nugget*

    The exemption of large businesses was so messed up to begin with. At the start of the pandemic I overheard an exec talking on the phone about how he thought my company didn’t have to worry about that because even though *my company* employs about 200 people, it’s partnered with another, much larger, company – so he felt like if they had to defend not giving paid leave in court they could. I don’t know about whether or not that would have stood up (knowing my state, probably) but that was a conversation that was very discouraging to overhear. “the company is like a family” they LOVE to say….. and what they mean is “Like many families, we expect you to put up with abusive behavior out of a sense of loyalty”

    Fortunately I’ve been wfh indefinitely along with most of my department since not long after that and the job is pretty good when it’s just about the work – but if they ever call us back into the office full time I don’t know how long I’ll last.

  3. Myrin*

    ““Unfortunately, current paid leave proposals impose billions of dollars in an unfunded mandate on state and local governments. […] If the federal government wants to require paid leave, the federal government should pay for it.”
    The federal government can’t pay for it, however, because Republicans are also blocking funding for state and local governments from being included in the bill.”


    1. Can't Sit Still*

      The bottom line is employers don’t want their employees to get used to having sick leave, because then they’ll expect it. Can’t have people getting used to be treated like adult humans instead of disposable cogs!

    2. H.C.*

      Not to mention insufficient (if not outright lack of) aid for state / local governments, which are facing budgetary issues of their own from declining revenue & increased COVID-related expenditures. Ugh indeed.

  4. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I should mention, some states have their own protections that will not expire next week (for example, California has a strong one).

    I will also mention that my oldest niece, who some of you have followed here since she was 12 and helped answer a letter here about a boss who was always making out with his girlfriend at work, is now in college and has spent this semester working full-time at a nonprofit legal clinic, where she is helping people enforce their legal Covid-related rights at work (such as having stern conversations with employers who have tried to deny people this legally required paid leave). Very pleased with this.

    1. Tuesday*

      That’s so cool! And it’s great for her and the people she’s helping that she has such a great mentor! You’ve helped so many people stick up for themselves.

      1. Quill*

        Que bueno! I’ve found my (limited but being diligently worked on) language abilities to be a great asset both in the job market and in terms of being able to take a wider view of the world, I hope she gets the same reward for her work in learning a language and therefore giving more people access to the service she’s working for!

    2. Elle*

      Congratulations to your niece on being an awesome person. Also, felicitaciones a tu sobrina por ser una persona increíble.

    3. New Yorker*

      New York State also has paid COVID sick leave that (as far as I know) does not currently have an expiration date. Details are available on their Paid Family Leave website:

  5. NewYork*

    Can anyone explain how the 50 week limitation works? Does it include ALL UI? Does it just include the total of teh 300/600 people got?

    1. Can't Sit Still*

      Typically, UI benefits are only available for 26 weeks per claim. This extends the UI benefits an additional 24 weeks, when they usually extend benefits in 13 week increments. It’s not exactly generous, but it’s not a stick in the eye, I guess.

    2. RosyGlasses*

      It’s a total of all UI – so if you already used over 25 weeks before the pandemic started, I believe that you would only get up to 50 total weeks with this additional 13 week extension.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Wait, hang on, is this ever? Like, in a person’s lifetime they can only get unemployment for 50 weeks? Or just after each job? I don’t really understand the US system (it seems like over here in the UK, the amount you get is much less generous, as in it isn’t possible to live on it unless you happen to already live in social housing, but it is not linked to previous employment or time-limited in the same way).

        1. Quill*

          IIRC it refreshes if you’re then employed afterward for a certain amount of time, but… obviously that’s a worrisome condition right now given how many industries just aren’t going to fully recover, period.

        2. Monty and Millie's Mom*

          Typically the 26 weeks is within a benefit year – a 52 week period – so the 50 weeks is likely 50 out of 52 weeks. You are eligible for 26 weeks of full UI benefits in each benefit year. I’m guessing this 50 out of 52 weeks is a one-time deal and then it’ll either need to be re-worked, or we’ll go back to the 26 weeks of payments out of 52 weeks. But also – it varies by state, so there’s that.

  6. Kimmybear*

    I work for a larger company and have been in quarantine with my COVID positive kiddo for the last 13 days. I’ve been amazed at how my company and my boss have responded. Company said…here’s all the info you need in one place and you can have 5 extra sick days. Boss said…take care of yourself and do what you need, do you need me to drop anything at your doorstep? We can’t legislate compassion but it would be nice if we didn’t have to.

  7. Stephanie*

    “If you’re thinking that sounds like a good way to ensure sick people come to work and spread Covid, you are correct.”

    Unfortunately, it’s also a great way to ensure that people with a broken moral compass would find ways to be “exposed” multiple times and unable to show up for work. This is absolutely epidemic in the manufacturing circles that I work, and has nearly shut our production down more than once this year.

    1. Snailing*

      Your second point is valid, but with FFCRA, it needs to be doctor ordered quarantine or actual symptoms, so your company/other companies should be asking for verification anyway. It’s certainly frustrating that people are using covid as an excuse to get off from work, but those same people likely fake getting sick in normal times too, and that’s not a reason to take aid away from people who truly need it.

      1. PT*

        In hard hit areas, can you even get doctor orders if you have mild symptoms? I hear a lot of doctors are refusing to treat people with COVID symptoms, and that it’s really hard to get a prescription for a test if you have an exposure but no symptoms, or mild symptoms/atypical symptoms (no cough or fever). You just have to wait until you get better or are ill enough to be seen in the ER.

        1. PostalMixup*

          My doctor has an online screening tool, where you put in your symptoms and it tells you if you need to be tested (only if you’re at high risk for complications) or isolate yourself. It’ll provide a formal document to give to your employer if you check that box on the form.

    2. Can't Sit Still*

      That’s a management problem and an insufficient leave problem, not a reason to treat employees like criminals.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Frankly, I’d rather have some moochers get paid to stay home than to have millions of people facing additional exposures to a contagious deadly pandemic that could have been mitigated with better policies. Sometimes punishing bad people can’t be your to priority, especially at the expense of so many lives.

      1. Snailing*

        It feel like grade school, right? The whole class must be punished because the one class clown won’t stop talking!

        1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

          And the punishment might be death or long term health problems! That’s what you get, you people who didn’t do anything wrong. /s

          1. Quill*

            As many middle school administrators have learned, this sort of draconian stuff is an easy way to get a mutiny.

    4. Student*

      White-collar worker here, with co-workers who are mostly not getting leave for this sort of thing because we are all teleworking now.

      Some people have lives where they get exposed multiple times. I have a couple co-workers who frequently have to quarantine due to exposures. For some of them, it’s the kind of personal choice they could legitimately opt out of if they had higher concern for their own health. For others, they are getting repeatedly exposed via pathways they don’t have full control of, or an easy way to opt out of. Those getting exposed to things outside their full control sometimes have side jobs with higher risks to pay the bills, partners with jobs that have higher exposure rates, kids going to in-person school or care out of necessity, or family members that need regular care but won’t isolate.

      I opt to not be part of the former group. I am lucky to not be in the latter group; it could’ve easily been different.

      I encourage as much sympathy as you can muster for both groups – and I encourage you not to make too many assumptions about which group your co-workers fall into.

    5. Hannah*

      Well, only two weeks total is paid, no matter how many times you have to go out, so that’s a cap at least on the financial “benefit” of being exposed. Other than that you’d have to use your own PTO or take the time unpaid (at least on the federal level – some states may have better provisions).

  8. Paris Geller*

    Disheartening news. I’ve mentioned in some comments that I had covid-19 in July. The leave didn’t cover the whole time I was out, but it helped immensely. It’s frustrating to see that the paid leave won’t be extended when we are, by the numbers, in the worst of the pandemic with every day breaking records for hospitalization.

  9. Former Retail Lifer*

    My company doesn’t offer sick time: we get two weeks paid vacation for the first four years, and any sick time needs to be deducted from that. Thank Flying Spaghetti Monster that they added an extra two weeks of PTO if you have covid or are quarantined due to possible exposure, or we’d have no paid time off left if this happened to us. They added that protection before the previous bill was passed, so hopefully, it will continue.

    Unfortunately, this is going to hit retail and food service HARD, where exposure risk is high and they generally don’t have any paid time off at all outside of what the bill provided.

  10. Confused Single Mom*

    So what should I do if my company isn’t paying me for when I was out in quarantine after a work exposure? Any tips on how to have that conversation when I’m an hourly employee working in home providing services to kids?

    1. RC Rascal*

      Look into the PUA program. It covers people who are forced to quarantine because of possible exposure.

        1. RC Rascal*

          There are 11 or 12 situations where PUA applies & I think yours is one of them. Look at your state’s Department of Labor website for guidance. PUA may be a separate application. It is in mine.

      1. Lurker*

        Workers’ comp covers medical bills and prescriptions, I don’t think it covers missed wages. But perhaps short term disability would come into play?

        1. Snailing*

          If the employer offers a short term disability plan, it can depend on the carrier and the specific policy and riders if COVID is covered. I work in employee benefits, and I’ve seen some STD policies with a quarantine rider and some without. It would likely depend on how bad the case of covid is and if the provider seen would classify it as a temporarily disability or not, but this is definitely worth looking into if you have an STD plan!

          1. Confused Single Mom*

            Unfortunately I’ve only been at the company for a month and a half so I don’t qualify for short term disability yet. Luckily I tested negative otherwise I’m not sure what I would have done.

  11. HB*

    Here’s the thing I don’t understand:

    Companies aren’t paying for it. Whatever they pay their employee for the two weeks, they get back in tax credits. So why in the hell do you have businesses fighting it at all? (Other than out of abject cruelty)

    1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

      Because they don’t want workers getting used to the idea of being able to get paid sick time.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Not all employers are eligible for those tax credits. Plus you have the administrative burden.

      I’m not defending this, not at all! Just noting some of the factors that are going to lead to employers not offering paid leave unless they are required to do so.

      1. HB*

        If an employer is required to pay the leave, they’re entitled to the tax credit that covers the leave. The tax credits that employers *aren’t* necessarily entitled to are related to Employee Retention, etc because of the way they intersect. And while administrative burden is an argument, it doesn’t hold water when you have employers actively spending *more* time trying to figure out how to get out of it than effing calling their damn payroll company.

        (Now, payroll companies who don’t know what the hell *they’re* doing is another issue)

        1. HB*

          (And administrative burden is a stronger argument for small companies that do their own payroll, but also, tax and regulatory compliance are the costs of having a business)

          1. HRBee*

            I’ve been actively trying to get my company’s FFCRA credit for Q2 since July (~$60K). It’s a mess. My payroll system wasn’t set up to file automatically for it in Q2 so we have to do amendments and it’s literally the worst thing ever. Administrative burden is real (and my company only has 100 employees).

            But even still, I don’t think any business should be exempted. If anything, just offer an additional credit for the cost of manpower to administer it.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Honestly I think it’s this attitude that’s prevalent in the US, that workers owe unconditional loyalty to their corporate overlords, even if it means sacrificing their very lives to benefit the company. There are several other beliefs that are part of this system, but this isn’t the right place for me to go off on that tangent.

    4. JMHO*

      The business owner is paying for it. They are getting reimbursed for it next April, but they are paying the bill now. Depending on how big the business is, how hard it was hit by loss of revenues for COVID, how the cash flow runs, how much the business has in savings, and how many COVID sick leaves need to be covered, there are businesses that would have a hard time paying this money up front, even knowing that it will come back as a tax credit. Not saying that it’s not the right thing to do, just saying that it’s not always the business owner being cruel.

      1. HB*

        No, they’re being reimbursed for it when the 941s are due which is quarterly (July 31, October 31, and January 31). Which is incidentally when the *deposits* for Payroll taxes, withholding, etc are due (which is reduced through the tax credit). So the chances of this causing cash flow problems *on its own* (as opposed to cash flow problems due to, well, COVID) is unlikely short of a situation where the *entire* office/company has to shut down to two weeks because they all got COVID.

        (Sorry, not trying to be snippy at anyone in the comments I am just still really pissed at Phil and people like him)

    5. Double A*

      There was a line from a recent episode of Superstore that addressed some of this:

      “You have to understand it from Corporate’s perspective. They love money, and don’t care if we die.”

  12. Crivens!*

    Thanks for confirming we’re all expendable cogs to y’all, Congress (by which I largely mean Republican congress).

  13. Mimmy*

    Very disheartening news. I see above that some states do have their own protections, but it may not be enough to curb the spread.

  14. RosyGlasses*

    It’s so ridiculous – there is no reason they shouldn’t have gone with the original proposal of $1200 stimulus and $600 UI add-on – in addition to extending FFRCA. So tired of the majority of Congress being so out of touch with what people are struggling with right now.

      1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

        I saw a post on Facebook that said the $600 stimulus is the government version of intentionally tipping a terrible server 25 cents, or something super small – it can’t be misconstrued as $0/they forgot, but it’s not large enough to be meaningful/helpful. It’s a deliberate middle finger.

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      So agree with out-of-touch comment. Measly $600 and they couldn’t even get that done without funding billions to other countries along with it.

  15. Week old sourdough*

    This makes me incredible anxious because my company decided 2021 was a great year to move sick time and vacation time into one bucket and force any long term illness to be short term disability.

    1. anon for this*

      At my former workplace, short term disability insurance was tied to the life insurance policy. I waived the life insurance for a number of (good) reasons and was told I was also waiving STD. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal, but I wasn’t planning for Covid. I think I would have been able to take time off for an injury/illness that would have used STD, but it would have been unpaid. I’m wondering if there are others who ended up without it.

  16. Casey in the sunshine*

    I also work for a company of over 700 people. The company has been family and safety first through the whole thing. Everyone is very compassionate and helpful. I’ve had 14 employees with COVID at various times this year. No complaints on how it has been handled.

    Perhaps, pure speculation, the reason it was mandated for smaller companies was because smaller companies tend to have less in the way of time off benefits to begin with.

    I would also note Buzzfeed is the only site that I could find making it a party based decision. No major news organization is saying that.

      1. Pippa K*

        It is the *only* framing of it I’ve read, and I’ve followed coverage in several news outlets in two countries!

    1. Quill*

      Not to be rude, but… can you please give me the address of the rock you’re staying under? Or a similar rock? I too long for a week where I could be ignorant of the political reality going on over this.

  17. Kiwi*

    My husbamd works for a larger firm and can’t work from home (delivery driver). We currently have COVID (which we got from his job, as he delivers to areas where masks are an afterthought) and he gets a few extra sick days, which don’t make up the balance of time missed. He even asked his boss “then what’s people’s motivation to report this, when we lose money for doing it?” With no answer. I’m work from home so still working (with a lot of tolerance for the fact that I’m taking long breaks to rest).

    It just sucks. One week to go, assuming no complications. And we’ll get our 600 dollar pity payouts during that time, which will just scratch by the minimums for debt we took on when his old job slashed his hours due to COVID.


  18. Tom Collins*

    This is excellent news! Sick leave like this is something that should be enacted and paid for at the state level. If California wants to require sick leave then let them. I personally enjoy living in a state without all of these sorts of restrictions and the ability to live my life (Go Florida!).

    I’m also staunchly against my tax dollars paying for other people’s sick leave. This should be something between you and your employer.

    I’m not a fan of the overall bill, but I am very thabkofor this part of it. Or rather, that it’s not in there.

      1. Tom Collins*

        I’m not cheering for death. My heart goes out to everyone impacted by this terrible pandemic. But I also think we should take measured approaches in our solutions. As a taxpayer I’m glad this one was removed.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Your logic doesn’t line up. The expiration of this law means there will be more people at work who are sick, which means more infections, which means more deaths. Some of those infections and deaths will cross state lines because that’s how this works.

          Move on please.

        2. Dream Jobbed*

          Forcing people to choose between calling in sick and poverty, or going to work and infecting others, is cheering death on. Don’t kind yourself. You value your (very tiny amount of) money, over other’s lives. And it is gross.

        3. Quill*

          Your heart doesn’t do a lot of work without your participation in the common good, unfortunately. Thoughts and prayers don’t feed people, move vaccines, or allow people to mitigate their chances of disease exposure or spread.

          1. TX Lizard*

            “I really trully wish these people the best, unless it means any tiny amount of sacrifice or inconvenience from me.” (/s just in case)

            1. Quill*

              I think I’m gonna loosely quote my great aunt (the nun) here and say that god helps people VIA OTHER PEOPLE.

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          So you hate the economy then? Because people getting sick and dying hurts the economy and more people going to work sick will cause more illness and death. The more people die/go on disability/get sick, the more people and families save what they can and defer spending (especially if dropping from a 2 income to 1 income household), fewer people spending means more people lose their jobs (perhaps even you!), and more businesses close. Your stance is penny wise and pound foolish. You quibble about covering 2 weeks of leave, but are OK with the tax dollars lost due to less business activity, more people on disability, more families needing benefits, more kids in foster care (i.e. single parent dies – other parent can’t raise them, kid lives with a grandparent who dies), not to mention having a huge housing crisis when all the people who can’t pay their mortgages and rents get evicted. Extremely short sighted.

        5. Narya*

          I… don’t think you understand what taxes are for. Taxes are used for the greater good, that’s what you’re paying for! Unless its lining the pockets of rich politicians, like the ones who support your brand of logic. “I dont want to pay for someone else” is the reason we’re in this situation.

    1. New Yorker*

      Following that logic, I’d love it if my NYS tax dollars didn’t subsidize states that can’t pull their own weight. But I guess that’s why it’s the *United* States instead of just States of America.

      Sounds dangerously close to socialism to me. /sarcasm

    2. BubbleTea*

      I just… I can’t fathom this kind of viewpoint. Surely the whole point of paying taxes is for the benefit of society as a whole? What could possibly be more beneficial than preventing people from contracting a major disease that is spreading like wildfire through vulnerable populations?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And even if you don’t care about human life and just care about finances, you should have an interest in stopping the spread of a disease that is wrecking the economy. It’s bizarre.

        1. TX Lizard*

          Right, and if your taxes are allowing sick people to stay home and not cough on you on the bus, that’s a good thing for you (general you/Tom Collins).

        2. RosyGlasses*

          Exactly – and it’s attitudes (and states) like this that mean states enacting more strict restrictions, thus having (in general) less issues with hospital beds and ICU are now GETTING LESS VACCINES to our states because other states are having mor problems and therefore need more help. Sooo- they don’t do what they can to mitigate the virus but then they get rewarded with more vaccines. Got it.

        3. agnes*

          And not to mention that nationally, more than 40% of all the care for covid patients is paid for through Medicare and Medicaid. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to prevent this illness?

    3. TX Lizard*

      I also pay taxes, and think that supporting sick people’s ability to stay home and stop the spread of a deadly virus is a pretty good use of my money. I would much rather my taxes go to pandemic relief/paid sick leave/unemployment than to the DoD.

    4. MissElizaTudor*

      And I’m staunchly against my tax dollars paying for the war on drugs, the military, or border and immigration enforcement.

      If you think there should be taxes at all, and you’d rather they pay for things like those than for something that helps people, then you need to take a closer look at your ethical framework.

      1. Quill*

        Generally speaking anyone who believes it’s “my tax dollars” does not realize that infrastructure and public health only work if they can have a large buy-in by pooling a lot of money to somewhat-efficiently cover a lot of people.

      2. MEH*

        100% this. I would much rather my tax dollars go to providing a healthy social welfare net for people than the things you listed in your first paragraph. And yet, here we are. *sigh*

    5. DarthVelma*

      Given that Florida receives more in federal spending than it’s citizens pay in taxes, maybe you should shut the hell up about your tax dollars.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      See, here’s the thing about taxes. They’re collected for the benefit of the COUNTRY, not just you. You pay for everyone else; they pay for you. It’s a mutual aid type of thing. In most first world countries, your taxes would actually be higher and would help others even more. We, the U.S., are actually the shithole.

      I’ve become pretty committed to making it less of a shithole. That means paying taxes so we can all have affordable healthcare and sick leave when we need it. That means electing people who respect science and actually care about other people. That means helping foot the bill for good public schools and supporting higher standards of education even though I don’t have children, so I’m not surrounded by ignorant loudmouths who fall for propaganda and misinformation.

      That means telling you that you suck.

    7. Jean (just Jean)*

      Alison, I was angry when I typed this. You can delete my comment if it’s over-the-line too unkind.

      Because my mother raised me to be polite, I am not going to comment further on your comment…
      …except to say that it’s good you live in Florida. You and your cold, cold heart will get along just fine with all the other reptiles, especially the alligators, in your state.

      If life ever hands you unexpected burdens for which you cannot plan (e.g. your workplace gets slammed by the pandemic, or your kid is born with special needs, or your car gets hit with you in it and you experience some enormous and expensive medical catastrophe), do not complain. Just suck it up and deal, the way you expect other people to.

  19. PJS*

    I can’t believe they’re blaming this on the local governments, when it’s Congress who put the local governments in that position. They easily could have treated local governments like any other employer and let them recoup the cost. Those government employers make the same payroll deposits and file the same 941 returns as any other business.

    On another note, my local government employer just announced that we are voluntarily providing an additional 80 hours of COVID leave for 2021 even though we are not legally required to do so. I am VERY pleasantly surprised. This is pretty much a 180 from before. Of course, we also have a brand new CEO as of a month ago who doesn’t seem to be as cavalier about people’s finances as the old CEO.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hell if I know. What I’ve seen is a lot of reporting that the tax credits for the leave are being extended through 3/31, but without any explanation that the requirement for the leave is ending (and that it will be voluntary now).

      Honestly, that’s partly because the bill is massive and even members of Congress haven’t read the whole thing. But I’m sure interest groups have been putting out press releases, etc. on this part of it, so I don’t know why it’s not being highlighted more. (Part of that may be reporters just missing the nuance of tax credits vs. the leave itself.)

      1. Week old sourdough*

        I think we will see this come to light as more people figure it out. It will really affect my family- I work with people who are essentially and were counting on that paid 2 weeks if they get sick.

    2. Quill*

      Because, based on my extremely casual reading of what’s going on in the bill, it’s both filled with random and often entirely unconnected things, and it isn’t very buzzwordy.

      Plus, 24 hour up-to-the-minute news cycle and the fact that this bill is being fast tracked like a disney world season ticket holder.

    3. radish*

      Not that I’m defending it, but tbf it could be because the bill’s over 5,500 pages long. I haven’t seen much news today yet, but all last night I was seeing people pull out bits like the massive funding going to the navy/air force/missiles/space force/Israel/etc…..

    1. agnes*

      the mandate ends for all employers, including government employers. Don’t know if various federal agencies will choose to voluntarily continue the practice.

  20. Insurance Nerd*

    I am a registered Republican and hate big government intervention, and this makes me mad. We already have a culture in this country that discourages people from taking sick days when they’re sick ( attendance awards in school and at work, work from home while sick policies, “unspoken rules” that mean that you’re looked on less favorably if you use all your PTO) and this will just lead to a much greater spread of the virus. The only way you are going to have meaningful impact on spread ( other than lockdown, which I am 100% not for even as someone who has had bad COVID) is to make it easy for people to take the time off when they’re sick.

  21. agnes*

    We’ve been extremely generous with employer paid leave while someone is awaiting Covid test results and unlimited employer paid leave if a worker is positive–haven’t had too many of those fortunately. It’s cost our company a lot of money, but it has pretty much kept Covid out of the workplace and ensured continuity of service. And we provide a LOT of public services.

    I think any employer who stops providing paid leave to keep sick people home (because it is no longer “required”) will regret it. The few that might abuse it shouldn’t outweigh the very real benefits to the health and wellness of your employees.

    1. Llama*

      I’ve had one of 4 employees not abuse leave. The rest lied and used it for vacations, trips. All employed less than a month. Then quit so they could take advantage of the next employer.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You have a real hiring problem then! Most people aren’t choosing unemployment in this job market just to get two weeks off (nor are they finding it easy to quickly move on to a new employer).

        Also, the law actually requires you to get medical documentation from people taking leave in order to get reimbursed via the tax credits.

      2. Starbuck*

        You probably need to be offering higher pay or better benefits or hours, because it sounds like you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as hiring people. Wow.

  22. Mojo021*

    As the person in HR who is responsible for tracking the EPSLA eligibility and making sure sick days are coded correctly and making sure they follow the requirements to be out, return, isolate, quarantine….. etc. I am happy it is ending for a couple of reasons, the main one being that as a school district/municipality that is self funded we were required to provide EPSLA/EMFLEA but we do not get the tax breaks associated with it. The other reason is because of people trying to take advantage of the system. We have approximately 1800 employees and have 600+ Covid related issues. I will still be managing the Covid related issues, but I have a feeling that without the “free” days there will be fewer requests. Thank you Allison for all of the helpful information!

    1. Living near Main Street and horribly depressed*

      “[P]eople trying to take advantage of the system”?

      Jesus bloody Christ! People are DYING!

      I guess HR is made of heartless slavedrivers after all… Thanks for the heads-up; I’ll never trust HR for anything again.

    2. nom de plume*

      It’s disturbing that after more then 300,000 deaths, a further spike in infection rates, and growing pauperism across the country, the only thing you can think of is (rhetorical) “people abusing the system.”

      Maybe consider that people who are infected or exposed should not be making a decisions about whether to be sick (and a vector of infection for untold others), or lose their salary. That’s not normal. It’s twisted, and it’s weird you don’t see that.

      1. TX Lizard*

        Also it’s not like it is the HR employee’s money at stake? How does it affect you (Mojo) if people get paid sick leave? An absence of paid sick leave certainly will affect you, because it will lead to more sick employees coming in to work and potentially infecting you.

      2. linger*

        “We must remove benefits to stop people abusing the system” comes from the same place as “We must place extra barriers to voting to stop voter fraud” — a position of deep distrust, and willingness to believe the worst of others, in the absence of any hard evidence. If such professed beliefs are genuine and grounded on anything at all, it must be either that the believers consider themselves superior to all others, or that they do not trust themselves not to “abuse the system” if given any chance. Either way, they are, in effect, declaring their own lack of ethics, and removing themselves from polite society.

      3. Starbuck*

        If anyone is “abusing the system”, it’s the people and corporations who are reaping billions of dollars in profit during the worst crisis of a generation.

    3. Starbuck*

      “We have approximately 1800 employees and have 600+ Covid related issues.”

      Did it ever cross your mind that maybe that’s just how bad it is where you live?

      1. nom de plume*

        Seriously! Jumping straight to the straw man of pEoPLe AbUsInG tHE sYsteM is some Fox News-level sh*t. And that’s not even touching the gobsmacking lack of empathy here. Ugh.

  23. Enby*

    The other thing not mentioned here is that the emergency FMLA covered people who didn’t have childcare for Covid-related reasons. I have a child in preschool, which has moved primarily outside and so is frequently canceled due to weather (especially now that it’s so cold!). There are major shortages of quality childcare where I live, especially now that a big local preschool closed back in the spring, so I can’t just switch.

    The childcare FMLA was the only reason I didn’t lose my job in the spring when school was canceled for 5 months, and it’s kept me afloat through the frequent cancellations. Now that it is ending (and I doubt my employee will extend it voluntarily), I am almost certainly going to be forced to cut back on my hours to cope with frequent cancellations as well as my mental health, which is tanking. I’m also going to have to team up with another family to help cover cancellations, more than doubling my risk of exposure in a state where cases are very high and rising.

    There’s so little talk about the childcare crisis, and how it impacting the ability of parents to work. It’s infuriating.

  24. Llama*

    Glad the leave is optional. It was a huge burden for small businesses with less than 12 employees. It was and is currently being abused by many more people than it helped.

    1. Sarah H.*

      In my experience, the overwhelming majority of those eligible either didn’t use it at all, or used it very little…especially parents with children at home due to schools going virtual. I’m sure there were some who abused it, but I don’t think they outweighed the benefit.

  25. Just My 2 Cents*

    This is one of those situations that feel like a no win situation for so many. I’d like our company to continue the emergency paid sick leave for people who are exposed to COVID. Unfortunately, like others, we’ve seen abuse of the system even though we do have a decent PTO and long term sick plan. But, the benefit of continuing protection those PT staff who have no paid time off out weighs the abuse. Being a non-profit, we’d find it hard to continue this coverage unless we continued getting the tax credits.

    The parts that have been truly harmful for our business that has no choice but to staff 24/7 (similar to health care) is the EFMLEA for school closures and the $600 unemployment add on. We have people who are definitely taking advantage of the EFMLEA and aren’t even making an effort to find alternate child care arrangements. Having had more than 10% of our staff take the full 12 weeks (and asking for more) is not sustainable. Current staff have to work excessive OT to compensate and they are becoming mentally and physically exhausted. And when someone can make more money on employment than working a job that is hard work, it severely reduces the number of people interested in working.

  26. Jean (just Jean)*

    “This is one of those situations that feel like a no win situation for so many. …. We have people who are definitely taking advantage of the EFMLEA and aren’t even making an effort to find alternate child care arrangements.”

    This is why it would be extremely helpful to redirect U.S. social values from rugged individualism to kinder, gentler collective responsibility. If child care was seen as a society-wide responsibility* like, say, K-12 public education or the local fire department, neither individual employees nor individual employers would be on the hook when the schools collapsed. Or at least the employers would recognize the situation as a Collective Catastrophe rather than a set of Individual Problems to be Solved by Said Individuals. Like it is now.

    *instead of seen as Good Folks Cleaning Up After Uppity Women Who Shirk Their Maternal Duties

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