COVID-19 Federal Paid Leave Requirements

How do federal rules Interact with Washington's paid leave laws?

In the second of what will probably be several federal packages responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the Families First Act (FFA) on March 18, 2020. It includes requirements for companies with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid leave to employees impacted by coronavirus, with possible exemptions for “essential workers” and companies with fewer than 50 employees. Congress and the administration are currently debating another package that may amend paid leave provisions.

Leave requirements of the FFA are in addition to any leave already available to employees. Employers will pay employees directly for FFA leave, and later will be reimbursed by the federal government via payroll tax credits. The leave provisions of FFA expire on December 31, 2020.

Three things that are missing from FFA leave provisions:

  • They leave millions of U.S. workers uncovered and unprotected, including those on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus and providing essential services.
  • The federal reimbursement provisions require small, locally owned companies that are already struggling to survive the pandemic to front the money and wait months for tax credits. Small businesses hard hit by the impacts of COVID-19 need cash federal assistance now.
  • The leave is not permanent. Washington is one of only a handful of states with paid leave protections already in place. Most workers across the U.S. have no right to paid sick days or paid family and medical leave for the full range of health and family needs.
Paid Sick Days

Almost all workers in Washington already have access to paid sick days at full pay that is available for most COVID-19-related purposes, as well as other personal and family health-related needs.

Washington State Seattle Families First Act
Who is covered Most workers except overtime exempt All workers
  • Private sector workers in companies with fewer than 500 employees and all government
  • Employers of health and emergency response workers may opt out
  • USDOL may exempt employers under 50 from covering school closure-related
Uses
  • Illness and preventive care of worker or family
  • Work or child’s school/ childcare closed due to public health emergency
  • Sexual assault or domestic violence
  • Illness and preventive care of worker or family
  • Work or child’s school/childcare closed
  • Sexual assault or domestic violence
  • Government or health provider ordered isolation or quarantine
  • Workers has COVID-19 or symptoms, or is providing care to an ill person
  • Child’s school or daycare closed
How much leave At least 1 hour for every 40 worked
  • At least 1 hour for every 40 worked
  • 1 hour for every 30 hrs worked in firms of 250+ workers
80 hours for full-time workers, prorated for part-time (according to average hours worked per 2 weeks)
Rate of pay Full wage Full wage
  • Full wage for self-care, up to $511 per day (up to about $64 per hour)
  • 2/3 wage for caring for another person, up to $200 per day (up to about $37.50 per hour)
Retaliation protections Yes Yes Yes

 

Paid Family & Medical Leave

Paid Family & Medical Leave under FFA is only available if a child’s school or childcare is closed due to the pandemic. This specific purpose is not covered by Washington’s PFML program.

Washington PFML FFA PFML
Conditions covered
  • Workers with a serious health condition certified by a health care provider
  • Workers caring for a family member with a serious health condition
  • Parents with a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Family members of people deployed overseas in military service
Workers whose child’s school or childcare is closed due to the pandemic
Eligibility
  • Anyone who worked at least 820 hours in the previous year in Washington
  • Except federal workers, some tribal workers, and some workers under collective bargaining agreements in place since 2017 are not covered
  • Private sector workers in companies with fewer than 500 employees and all government
  • Employers of health and emergency response workers may opt out
  • USDOL may exempt employers under 50 from covering school closure-related
  • Requires 30 days with that employer
How much leave
  • Up to 12 weeks of medical or family leave, with 2 additional for pregnancy-related complications
  • Up to 16 weeks of both medical and family leave, 18 with pregnancy complication
  • 2 weeks unpaid
  • 10 weeks partial pay
Wage replacement Starting at 90% for lower-wage workers, about 70% for middle-wage workers, up to $1,000 per wk First 10 days may be unpaid; after 10 days, workers are paid 2/3 of usual wage up to $200 per day
Job protection Workers in companies of 50+ worker with full year on job and 1,250 hours in past year Workers in companies of 25+ workers
Concurrency with FMLA Yes No

 

For a more complete summary of paid leave provision of FFA, see: https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2020/03/03202020_COVID19%20Families%20First%20FS_Final.pdf

For a guide of Washington state benefits available to workers in a variety of coronavirus-related circumstances, including unemployment or short hours, see: https://esdorchardstorage.blob.core.windows.net/esdwa/Default/ESDWAGOV/newsroom/COVID-19/covid-19-scenarios-and-benefits.pdf

For more on Washington Paid Sick Leave, see https://lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/leave/paid-sick-leave/

For more on Seattle Paid Sick Leave, including 2020 amendments, see https://www.seattle.gov/laborstandards/ordinances/paid-sick-and-safe-time

For more on Washington PFML, see https://paidleave.wa.gov/

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