Topic COVID-19

How to Explain Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave to Your Employees

How to Explain Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave to Your Employees

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6201 or FFCRA) requires covered employers (businesses with under 500 employees) to provide paid sick leave to employees quarantined due to the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. You are also legally responsible for informing your employees about their rights under the FFCRA.

You Are Legally Obligated to Post a Notice

Every covered business is required to post this notice in a highly visible area (such as on a bulletin board in the common room). For many businesses that have now embraced remote work to comply with social distancing, the requirement for this notice can be satisfied by creating a link to the notice on your employee website. You can also email (or direct mail) the notice to your employees if you don't have a website or employee portal that your employees will be regularly visiting.

This notice must be posted immediately (as of April 1st). If you have multiple buildings, make sure that you post the notice in a visible location in each building. You can find and print the notice by visiting this link, and you can also contact the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division at 1-866-487-9243 to have a poster printed and mailed to your workplace free of charge.

Walk Your Employees Through the Notice Information

Some of your employees may get understandably upset or angry at FFCRA. 

For starters, FFCRA pays employees two-thirds of wages for paid sick leave involving caring for someone in quarantine or caring for their child whose school has closed down due to COVID-19. However, for those who are sick themselves, FFCRA pays 100% of their wages.

Currently, the FFCRA stipulates that covered businesses must provide the following to all employees (regardless of the length of time with your business):

  • Two-weeks paid sick leave "at the employee's regular rate of pay" if the employee is quarantined. It's important to note that the employee does not need a doctor's note to take this sick leave.
  • Two-weeks paid sick leave "at two-thirds the employee's regular rate of pay " if the employee needs to care for someone who is quarantined, or they need to care for a child who can no longer attend class due to the coronavirus.

The FFCRA also stipulates that you must provide the following to employees who have been with your business at least 30 days:

  • An additional 10 weeks of paid leave "at two-thirds the employee's regular rate of pay" to care for their child who can no longer attend class due to the coronavirus

In other words, the qualifying reason for leaving work determines the employee's rate of paid leave. If they are personally sick, they have their full wages covered. Otherwise, they have two-thirds of their wages covered.

Help Employees Understand the Process for Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave

Neither managers nor your employees can just decide to take the paid sick leave. As the FFCRA poster makes clear, employees must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Be subject to a local, state, or federal quarantine or isolation order (e.g., their state requires them to stay home due to coming into contact with someone with COVID-19 or having recently traveled).
  • They have been advised by a healthcare provider that they should self-quarantine due to exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19
  • They are currently experiencing symptoms, and they are seeking a diagnosis from their healthcare provider (i.e., they do not have to have a diagnosis at the time of taking the paid sick leave).
  • They are caring for someone who is self-quarantining due to COVID-19.
  • They are caring for their child who can no longer attend school due to its closing.
  • They are "experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury."

FFCRA also states that employees must not be able to work either in the office or via telework (remote work). So employees can't claim paid sick leave if they can continue to work remotely.

Be Open to Questions and Completely Transparent

When you post the notice or send an email of the notice, make sure that you let your employees know that they can talk to you if you have any questions. While the notice should answer most employee questions, they may come to you to help them with parts they don't understand or to complain about specifics.

Let them know you're there for them. These are difficult times. Many employees are trying to figure out how to deal with these stressful situations, and you should be willing to help them figure out the best course of action for them.

To get more up-to-date information, check out our COVID-19 resource page.