Paid sick leave: Who is eligible during the coronavirus outbreak?
The recent legislation signed by President Trump, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), grants two weeks of paid sick leave at 100 percent of the person’s normal salary, up to $511 per day. The legislation also provides up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67 percent of the person’s normal pay, up to $200 per day. The legislation generally applies to employers with 500 or fewer workers. Specifically (to the extent known at this time):
- Sick leave is to be paid at the usual pay rate.
You do not have to have the coronavirus to get the benefit: The two weeks of paid sick leave apply to anyone told to quarantine, showing symptoms, exposed to the virus or trying to get a test or preventive care. That is a broad definition. The IRS will probably have to come up with an exact rule, but it is clear Congress wants to avoid a situation in which everyone is trying to get a doctor’s note to qualify.
- Family leave is to be paid at two-thirds of the usual pay rate
Qualifying for family leave is different. A person is eligible to take up to three months of paid leave to care for a child whose school or child-care facility is closed due to the coronavirus.
- Sick Pay is capped at $511 per day and Paid Family leave is capped at $200 per day
In other words, paid sick leave would fully compensate employees earning up to about $130,000 a year for that two-week period, and paid family and medical leave would fully compensate employees earning up to about $75,000 a year for the three-month period.
- Exemptions can be obtained from the Labor Department
If the benefit would, per the language in the legislation, “would jeopardize the viability of the business.” Further clarification of this requirement and process has yet to be provided.
- The legislation covers union employers who are part of a multi-employer agreement.
- Many part-time workers are covered as well
The bill says part-time employees also get paid sick leave equivalent to the number of hours they typically work during a two-week period. So, if a person usually works 20 hours a week, they are eligible for up to 40 hours of pay. (Remember, this particular bill does not mandate paid sick leave for workers at big companies, so part-time workers might not be covered at those employers.)
- Self-employed individuals are eligible for a tax credit of up to two weeks of sick pay at their average pay and 12 weeks of family leave pay at two-thirds their normal rate.
These workers must show they had to comply with a self-isolation recommendation or that they had to care for a child whose school closed due to the coronavirus. Their benefit is capped at $511 per day for paid sick leave and $200 for family leave (or the average daily income the person usually receives if it is less than those amounts). The tax credit can be applied against a person’s income taxes, and it is refundable, meaning taxpayers will get a government rebate if their sick or family leave pay was greater than their tax bill.