The Families First Coronavirus Response Act amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and establishes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act both effective April 2, 2020, until Dec. 31, 2020. The bill basically amends the employers’ threshold from 50 or more employees to fewer than 500 employees. The Secretary of Labor has the authority to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees when the requirement would jeopardize the viability of the business.

Employees who have been employed for at least 30 days are eligible for expanded FMLA leave related to childcare and employees are immediately entitled to qualified sick leave. Certain healthcare providers and emergency responders are excluded from eligibility.

FMLA Amendment

Eligible employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for “a qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” This “qualifying need” is limited to circumstances where an employee is unable to work (or telework) to care for a minor child if the child’s school or place of childcare has been closed or is unavailable due to a public health emergency.

Though the first 10 days are unpaid, the employee may substitute accrued time off benefits. In general, the employer pays the employee not less than two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay for the employee’s normally scheduled hours for the remaining time on leave. Paid leave cannot exceed $200 a day or $10,000 total.

This is job-protected leave. The employer is to return the employee to the same or equivalent position after leave. Should an employer with fewer than 25 employees not have an equivalent position due to operational changes, the employer must make reasonable efforts to contact the displaced employee for up to a year if an equivalent position becomes available.

The Emergency Paid Sick Act requires employers to provide 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave to full-time employees and a comparable amount of paid time off for part-time employees based on their average hours in a two-week period. This paid time is to be used before the employee’s other paid time off benefits for the following absences:

Seeking medical diagnosis when experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

Subject to a COVID -19 related quarantine.

Caring for an individual who is subject to a COVID-19 quarantine.

Caring for a child if the child’s school or place of care is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.

Other substantially similar circumstances.

When the leave is for the employee’s own circumstances, the pay must be equal to the employee’s pay not to exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.

Employers will be required to post a notice of these entitlements. A model notice being prepared by the Department of Labor. I am happy to forward the notice.

Nora T. Akins, of Strategic Management provides management training and refines human resource systems to make the world kinder, one workplace at a time. Reach Nora at 219 873-1735 or

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