Legislative Action Surrounding Leave and COVID-19 Passed Nationwide and in New York State

Wednesday, March 18, 2020 was a busy day for lawmakers at both the state and federal level as measures were approved to aid a workforce increasingly impacted by novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Here we will break down each regulation and explain which employees and circumstances might be covered, noting that requirements for complying with each Act can vary depending on the size of your business.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was enacted to protect American workers and assist employers in providing emergency paid sick leave, as well as paid family leave in the case of school closures, for working families impacted by COVID-19. The provisions of this Act, as outlined below, will apply to employers with 500 employees or less who will be provided a refundable payroll tax credit covering 100% of the cost of wages when benefits are provided. The credit would also offset any employer contribution for an employee’s health insurance premiums during the period of leave. So what does the Act provide in terms of mandated leave?

Two weeks (10 days) of paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons. If the sick leave is for an employee themselves, whether sick or seeking a diagnosis, all of the employee’s wages up to a maximum benefit of $511 per day must be covered. If an employee is caring for another individual who is sick, the leave benefit must replace at least two-thirds of the employee’s wages up to a maximum of $200 per day. An employer cannot require that employees use other available paid time off before using the new emergency paid leave. Qualifying reasons include:

  • Coronavirus self-quarantine
  • Diagnosis or care for coronavirus exposure or symptoms
  • Caring for a child whose school or place of care has been closed, or whose provider is unavailable due to coronavirus

The above circumstances apply equally to an individual employee, or when assisting a family member. FFCRA has expanded the definition of “family member” from the FMLA’s parent, spouse and child under 18 to include adult child, sibling, next of kin and grandparent/child of the employee if that person is a pregnant woman, senior citizen, individual with a disability, or someone who has access or functional needs.

Twelve weeks of paid family leave for certain employees in the event of school/place of care closure. Employees must have been employed for at least 30 days with their employer and have a minor child whose school or place of care has been closed. The first 10 days of this leave are unpaid, but the employee can overlap this with the 10 days of paid sick leave above, if it applies. This benefit must replace at least two-thirds of the employee’s wages up to a maximum of $200 per day and no more than $10,000 per employee.

At the same time, New York state passed a separate Act, effective immediately, providing paid and job-protected leave benefits for certain employees affected by COVID-19. The new regulations aim to reduce the financial pressure for both private and public employees subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine. The amount of leave and benefits available varies depending on company size. Below is an overview:

  • Employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1 million will be required to provide job protection for the duration of a quarantine order and guarantee the employee’s access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.
  • Employers with 11-99 employees and employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million are required to provide at least five days of paid sick leave, job protection for the duration of the quarantine order, and guarantee their workers access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.
  • Employers with 100 or more employees, and all public employers (regardless of number of employees), will provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave and guarantee job protection for the duration of the quarantine order.

Employees will qualify for the above benefits when the quarantine is required for themselves or a minor dependent child as issued by the state of New York, the department of health, local board of health, or any authorized governmental entity.

Rose & Kiernan, Inc. will continue to monitor and relay information related to the many aspects of dealing with COVID-19 and the workplace including legislative action surrounding leave and COVID-19. We remind everyone to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce exposure, and will be available to answer questions throughout this time of uncertainty.

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