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Sick Leave Rules in 2020

In light of the covid-19 pandemic, many companies are forced to adapt to new paid sick leave rules.

The good news is, there are some new protections in place if you need access to healthcare or need to care for a family member. This short guide will break down what you need to know about the changes in paid leave laws in the United States.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Takes effect on April 2 and will continue to December 31, 2020.

The act compels employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid family leave to employees with 30 days or more of tenure, who are unable to work or telework due to childcare needs triggered by COVID-19.

It also calls for paid sick leave to all employees, regardless of tenure, who are unable to work because of government shelter in place orders, COVID-19-related illness and several other circumstances triggered by the pandemic.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act

To be covered under this act, you must meet these conditions:

  • You are unable to telework
  • You have been employed at least 30 days prior to seeking coverage
  • You need to care for a child (under the age of 18) if the child's school/place of care has been shut down.

If you're deemed eligible, you may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave. Here are a few stipulations to be aware of:

  • The first 10 days of the emergency leave can be unpaid, although employees may elect to use other paid benefits (accrued vacation/PTO, accrued sick leave, etc.) to cover that time.
  • For full-time employees, the remaining time must be paid at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be scheduled to work—this amount is capped to $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate, per employee.
  • FMLA leave protections apply so your company will have to return you to the same or similar role when you return.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

This covers both full and part-time workers who are unable to work or telework because of the need to take emergency sick leave. 

If you work full time, then you may take up to 80 hrs of paid sick leave, paid at your regular rate if you meet these conditions:

  • You're subject to local quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19
  • Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; and/or
  • Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis.

Emergency paid sick leave wages are capped. Once you reach the cap, the rest of your leave is unpaid. Not all employers are covered under this, so ask your HR team if this applies to you.

Coverage for COVID-19 Testing

Private health plans are required to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and related services without cost sharing (e.g. deductibles, copayments and coinsurance). 

Covered services:

  • Diagnostic testing;
  • Facility costs (physical office, urgent care center and emergency room); and
  • Healthcare provider services (in-person and telehealth).

New York has some additional paid sick leave changes with larger employers ( 100+ staff) required to provide at least 14 days, and smaller employers required to provide unpaid leave and in some cases up to 5 days paid leave until the quarantine order is lifted.

How will companies pay for this?

There are also additional tax credits that apply to employers, easing the financial burden of providing leaves and other accommodations to comply with the new laws around paid sick time. It's expected that companies will nonetheless experience significant costs around implementing new sick leave policies, especially because in many cases these emergency laws through the labor department require time off on top of any accrued leave balance.

If you think you need to take advantage of these new protections, the first step is to reach out to your HR team and request accommodation under these new federal government laws. This article is not meant to substitute legal advice.

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