As COVID-19 continues to change the way we work and interact, some provisions are being made regarding sick leave and the Family Medical Leave Act. Starting on April 2, 2020, there will be an expansion in terms of FMLA, and the introduction of an Emergency Paid Sick Leave. These changes will apply to business owners with fewer than 500 employees.

Expansion of FMLA

This Act identifies a new reason for eligible employees to take job protected FMLA leave. Specifically, eligible employees who are unable to work (including telework) may take leave to care for a child under 18 years of age whose school or childcare provider has been closed or is unavailable due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

This measure will provide up to 80 hours of sick time related to COVID-19. Covered employers must provide employees paid sick time to the extent an employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave because of the following reasons. Percentage of pay received varies based on circumstances listed below.

Employees are eligible to receive 100% pay if:

  • The employee is subjected to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
  • A health care provider has advised the employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19. 100% pay
  • The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis. 100% pay

Employees are eligible to receive two-thirds pay if they are:

  • Caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in (1) or has been advised, as described in (2).
  • Caring for a son or daughter of such an employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.
  • Experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Some rules apply to this measure for employers and employees.  For example, the paid sick time is in addition to any paid sick leave already provided by the employer but will not carry over to the following year (employers cannot adjust their policies to avoid the paid sick time obligations of the Act). Upon the request of an employee, the employer must permit the employee to use the paid sick time discussed in this section to cover the initial 10-day period of unpaid leave under the FMLA, discussed above.

Employers who are required to provide Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave and Emergency Paid Sick Leave under the Act shall be eligible to receive refundable tax credits to ease the financial burdens of these requirements.

Look for a poster from DOL that will come within a week – likely something we can download, and you can post up with your other posters. It would remain up for the year. Don’t forget to send and make it available to anyone in your company who is working remotely.

There may likely be additional relief for small businesses with fewer than 25 or 50 employees. They may be able to seek an exemption from the expanded FMLA requirements from the Secretary of Labor if the company can show that compliance with the law would jeopardize the business as a going concern. This is still developing, and we will do our best to keep you updated.

Please stay safe and healthy.  If you need guidance or assistance with anything you see here, please reach out to our team. We will continue to provide up-to-date information here.

Additional resources:

Coping with Stress During the COVID-19 Outbreak


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