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||
|How much leave||At least 1 hour for every 40 worked||
||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||
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|
||Workers whose child’s school or childcare is closed due to the pandemic|
|How much leave||
|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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