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.
|Families First Act
|Who is covered
|Most workers except overtime exempt
|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, or over 6 months)
|Rate of pay
|Yes – lni.wa.gov
|Yes – seattle.gov
|Yes – dol.gov
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.
|FFCRA PFML (Apr. 1-Dec. 31, 2020)
|Workers whose child’s school or childcare is closed due to the pandemic
|How much leave
|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)
|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
|How to apply
|Apply to Washington State at paidleave.wa.gov
|Ask employer, paid via usual paycheck
For a more complete summary of paid leave provision of FFCRA, see https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave
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/
For small businesses guides, see https://www.smallbizcovid19.com/resources and https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/covid-19-related-tax-credits-for-required-paid-leave-provided-by-small-and-midsize-businesses-faqs
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