CLEVELAND — It is the help you may need as you restart work but may not know is there. That is why News 5 is breaking down the paid sick leave available right now to help workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It is called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and includes both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, and it's available through the end of the year.
In general, the paid leave for COVID-19-related reasons applies to full and part-time employees of private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees, and certain public sector employers.
The federal government outlines that an employee is entitled to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work, including unable to telework, because they:
- are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
- have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
- are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis
- are caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2)
- are caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons; or
- are experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Legal experts we spoke with said the language in reason 6 is very vague and perhaps is a catchall to cover future illness related to the coronavirus.
In general, reasons 1-3 will get you two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at your regular rate of pay.
In general, reasons 4-6 will get you two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds your regular rate of pay.
Now, reason number 5 can also qualify you for the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, so long as you've been employed for at least 30 days.
A covered employer must provide those employees with an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay if the employee is unable to work because they must care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
Click here for a more in-depth explanation of the calculation of pay.
Important to note, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees could qualify for an exemption from the requirement to provide paid leave due to the closure of school or child care if they can prove the leave payments would jeopardize the viability of their business as a going concern.
If you qualify, the act requires that you must provide your employer with documentation in support of the paid sick leave or expanded FMLA.
Documentation must include a signed statement containing:
- your name
- requested dates of leave
- the COVID-19-qualifying reason for leave
- a statement representing that you are unable to work or telework because of the qualifying reason.
You'll also need to provide the name of the government entity that issued your quarantine or isolation order. Or, provide the name of the health care provider who advised you to self-quarantine or the name of the child, the school or place of care and a statement that no other suitable person is available to care for the child.
Legal experts say keep copies of everything you submit to your employer.
"If you are requesting the leave, make sure you have the documentation that you requested it or submitted it to your supervisor," said Corinne Huntley, attorney at Legal Aid Society. "That way if you get approved or denied you have the information with you, and if you think you’ve been denied this leave wrongly, you can contact the Legal Aid Society or our worker information line."
Legal Aid Society contact:
- 216-861-5899 in Cuyahoga County
- 440-210-4532 in Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain Counties
Businesses are reimbursed with tax credits for the cost of providing the paid leave.