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Who Qualifies for Paid Sick Leave Under the New Coronavirus Law?

No matter the position you hold or role you play in your company, it’s likely that your work life has changed significantly in the last month as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to keep your job, you may be completing your work from home. Or, you may have been deemed an “essential” worker, and still get up and head out to work each day.

COVID-19 has turned our country on its head, leaving employers and employees with plenty of questions as we navigate this new normal. Many have concerns about health and safety, especially about job security and income in the event they fall ill, which prompts the question: Will I get extra sick time if I get coronavirus?

Generally, the United States doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave for all workers. However, there is some relief available. In response to the widespread rise of COVID-19 cases and the related economic devastation, the U.S. government has procured a $2 trillion relief package. 

Within this coronavirus stimulus plan, Americans can find added protections and relief benefits via the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

If you’re wondering if you qualify for sick leave in the face of coronavirus, read on to learn eligibility requirements and how much you might be able to receive from your employer:

Do all businesses have to provide coronavirus paid sick leave?

The majority of small- to medium-sized private sector businesses must provide sick paid or paid family leave to affected employees, within certain limits. 

Under the FFCRA, American private employers that have fewer than 500 employees will be   reimbursed with tax credits to cover the cost of providing employees with paid leave taken for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The law was designed to encourage employers to keep workers on their payrolls, while ensuring that those employees don’t have to choose between getting paid and adhering to public health measures enacted to battle the virus. 

However, private companies with more than 500 employees are not subject to the new law. Neither are companies with fewer than 50 employees, if providing this coverage would make it impossible for them to continue running their business.

With these restrictions, it’s estimated that the coronavirus law now only covers about 25% of all workers.

In addition, employers are only required to provide paid sick leave to employees who have been employed with the company for more than 30 days. If you just started your job at your current company, it’s likely you don’t qualify for COVID-19 related sick leave.

Some local governments are working to expand coverage for workers in their cities. In California, both San Jose and San Francisco passed emergency bills requiring large companies to give all employees 14 days of paid sick leave if they’ve been impacted by coronavirus. Other cities are considering similar measures. Check with your local jurisdiction to determine whether coronavirus sick leave may be legally required of employers in your area.

Certain companies are stepping up to help employees during the coronavirus outbreak

Outside of federal and local mandates, certain businesses are stepping up to provide benefits of their own. While not required by federal or local law, some larger businesses have introduced their own temporary coronavirus sick leave policies to help employees during this unprecedented time.

Some of these include:

  • Darden Restaurants: As parent company of Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse (and other restaurant chains), Darden Restaurants announced all hourly employees will receive up to seven paid sick days.
  • &pizza: This East Coast pizza chain is providing a comprehensive benefits package to all employees. Within this package, hourly wage has been increased by $1, new staff qualify for sick leave, and staff diagnosed with COVID-19 receive 14 paid sick days. In addition, the company is providing free pizza to all employees to help offer food assistance during the pandemic. 

If you work for a company that doesn’t fit the criteria for federally mandated sick leave, you may consider asking HR if there are private plans to do so.

What type of sick paid leave does the new Coronavirus Law offer?

Under the recent legislation, qualified workers shall receive two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for family members who have been sickened by the disease. This is in addition to any paid leave (accrued sick or vacation time) the employee may already have. Also, employees may choose to use this additional leave prior to taking any of their accrued time.

In general, the coronavirus relief package allows qualified workers to take up to two weeks of paid sick leave if they’re unable to work (this includes remote work) because they are:

  • Under a quarantine order
  • Experiencing coronavirus symptoms and seeking a diagnosis
  • Caring for a quarantined person or a child whose school or daycare provider has shut down

Both full-time and part-time workers are eligible to receive sick leave benefits under the current legislation, as are self-employed individuals.

How do I apply for COVID-19 sick leave?

Paid sick leave is administered through your employer. Speak with your employer or HR representative to determine if your organization provides this benefit, as not every employer is required to pay sick leave under this legislation.

How much money do I qualify for?

The amount of sick paid leave you receive depends on the reason you need to take leave:

  • If you are a full-time worker who is sick or under quarantine, you can get up to two weeks (80) hours of paid sick leave at your regular pay rate.
  • If you are a part-time worker, your sick leave would be based on the average amount of hours you work over a two-week period.

In both of the above situations, you’ll receive either your regular rate or minimum wage – whichever is higher. You can receive a maximum of $511 per day and $5,110 over the two-week period. 

  • If you take sick leave to care for someone who is quarantined, or to care for a child whose school or daycare provider has shut down, you are eligible for up to two-thirds of your regular pay.

In both of these situations, you’ll receive either your regular rate or minimum wage – whichever is higher. You can receive a maximum of $200 per day and $2,000 over the two-week period. 

Bottom line: If you believe you are sick with COVID-19, or you are caring for someone who has been impacted by the disease, you may qualify for paid time off if the company you work for has more than 50 and less than 500 employees. 

How long will it take to receive sick leave benefits if I qualify?

It may take a while before affected employers are able to actually deliver the mandated benefits to their affected employees. Many small businesses are waiting to receive government loans to help them meet cost needs and keep their businesses alive and running. Businesses who provide paid sick leave will be reimbursed via payroll tax credit.The Small Business Administration (SBA) is now accepting applications for the above mentioned loans, but as this is an unprecedented situation for both government and businesses, it’s currently unclear how long the process may take. 

Note: These sick leave benefits are not permanent; under current laws, they will last through December 31, 2020.

Key Takeaways

  • Paid sick leave has been expanded to American workers who may not have previously qualified
  • Not all employers must provide paid sick leave, so you should check with your HR to learn if this type of leave is available
  • You can apply for paid sick leave through your employer

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about our world, and there are plenty of new rules and regulations to navigate. Mint is working hard to provide the information you need during this difficult time, from protecting your finances during these challenging times to what to do if you can’t cover your bills during the quarantine

Check in with us for all of the latest updates regarding COVID-19. 

Sources: NYTimes |Department of Labor | CNBC | NRN | KQED |


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