Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

COVID-19 Federal Paid Leave Requirements

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

In the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) passed on March 18, Congress enacted the first national paid leave standards. The law requires companies with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid leave to employees impacted by coronavirus, with possible exemption

Emergency federal leave goes into effect on April 1 and expires on December 31, 2020. These emergency paid leave requirements are in addition to any paid leave already available to employees. 

Employers will pay employees directly for FFCRA leave, and be reimbursed by the federal government for the costs of the paid leave and continuing health insurance. The third COVID-19 relief package, the CARES Act, amended FFCRA to make reimbursement available much more quickly to small business owners than the original provisions. Employers may draw down federal tax withholdings they have not yet submitted to cover qualified leave costs, including federal income taxes and both employee and employer shares of Social Security and Medicare taxes. They may apply to the IRS for expedited reimbursement of any additional costs.

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 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 leaves
  • 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 ordered or health provider advised isolation or quarantine
  • Worker 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, or over 6 months)
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 FFCRA PFML (Apr. 1-Dec. 31, 2020)
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
  • 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 may be unpaid (worker may use sick leave)
  • 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 2/3 of usual wage up to $200 per day (total of up to $10,000) 
Job protection Workers in companies of 50+ workers with full year on job and 1,250 hours in past year Workers in companies of 25+ workers
Concurrency with FMLA Yes – employers may “run the FMLA clock” for covered employees taking PFML
  • Yes – FFCRA family leave counts as FMLA for covered workers
  • Workers who used some FMLA in the previous 12 months may have their access to FFCRA family leave reduced
  • Use of FFCRA family leave reduces FMLA available for other purposes, but does not reduce WA PFML leave available
How to apply Apply to Washington State at Ask employer, paid via usual paycheck


For a more complete summary of paid leave provision of FFCRA, see

For a guide of Washington state benefits available to workers in a variety of coronavirus-related circumstances, including unemployment or short hours, see

For more on Washington Paid Sick Leave, see

For more on Seattle Paid Sick Leave, including 2020 amendments, see

For more on Washington PFML, see

For small businesses guides, see and

  • Leave a Reply
    • Pooja

      How to apply for federal covid PFML leave due to unable to manage job as a toddler’s childcare services is closed?

      Apr 22 2020 at 8:01 AM

    • Economic Opportunity Institute

      If your employer has fewer than 500 employees, you should be eligible for leave at 2/3 pay, both 2 weeks of sick leave and 10 weeks of family leave. You would ask your employer directly and provide a statement giving the reason you can’t work, the name of your child, and the name of the child’s childcare. More details here:

      Apr 22 2020 at 1:48 PM

    • Marina T.

      I’m so happy that I stumbled across your article and knew about so many useful resources because I’m planning to open my own business and I’m not aware of so many nuances connected with this field. Without any doubts, the process of payment of taxes is full of unclear points and there is a huge risk of making some significant mistakes. I think that all links can be useful for any taxpayer because in each of them you can find something unique and significant. Also, it is so cool that these resources can make the process of paying taxes easier in many ways because there you can find answers to almost all Incomprehensible questions and become a truly knowledgeable person on this sphere.

      // Marina Teramond

      Sep 30 2021 at 1:59 AM

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More To Read

Paid Family and Medical Leave

June 5, 2024

How Washington’s Paid Leave Benefits Queer and BIPOC Families

Under PFML, Chosen Family is Family

Paid Family and Medical Leave

November 21, 2023

Why I’m grateful for Washington’s expanded Paid Family & Medical Leave

This one is personal.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

February 10, 2023

Thirty Years of FMLA, How Many More Till We Pass Paid Leave for All?

The U.S. is overdue for a federal paid leave policy