Congress Approves Coronavirus Response Act Requiring Employer-Paid Sick and Medical Leave

This post was updated on Wednesday, March 18 by NAHB.

By a vote of 90-8, the Senate on March 18 approved H.R. 6201, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill will guarantee free coronavirus testing, establish paid leave for all employees, enhance unemployment insurance, expand food security initiatives and increase federal Medicaid funding.

The House initially passed H.R. 6201 on Saturday, March 14 by a vote of 363 to 40. Two days later, the House made additional technical corrections along with major substantive changes, thereby amending the bill prior to Senate consideration. Following Senate passage, President Trump signed the bill into law.

The three major components of this bill that will affect businesses of all sizes include: paid family and medical leave; paid sick leave; and new tax credits. Further details about each of these components are listed below.

Over the coming days and weeks, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Treasury Department will be releasing additional guidance and regulations to implement these new requirements.  

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

The bill requires employers to provide each employee with employer-paid sick time to the extent the employee is unable to work (or telework) because:

  1. The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19;
  2. The employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  3. The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to one of the two reasons above;
  4. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  5. The employee is caring for their son or daughter if the school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions;
  6. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Employers are required to cover 100% of typical wages. However, employers do not have to pay out more than $511 per day (and $5,110 in aggregate) per employee for employees taking leave due to points 1, 2 or 4 listed above. For employees taking leave under points 3, 5 or 6, paid sick time leave pay is capped at $200 per day (and $2,000 in aggregate.)

Full-time employees are eligible for 80 hours of paid sick time. Part-time employees are eligible for a number of hours equal to the average number of hours the employee works over a two-week period. The paid sick time is available to employees for immediate use, regardless of hire date, and covers 100% of typical wages. Employers do not have to pay out unused emergency sick leave days if the employee is separated.

For employers with existing policies, this emergency sick leave is in addition to paid leave the employee already receives. The bill will also prohibit employers from altering their policies to avoid these new requirements. Employers also may not require an employee to use other paid leave provided by the employer before using paid leave under the emergency bill. 

The bill also requires employers to post notices of the paid sick leave. Notices must be prepared or approved by DOL, which will make a model notice available to employers within seven days after the bill is enacted.

Employers are prohibited from discharging, disciplining or discriminating against employees who use sick time under this new act or file a complaint with regard to the act. The bill provides monetary penalties for employers that do not comply. This will take effect 15 days after the date of enactment and will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2020.

The Secretary of Labor will be granted the authority to issue regulations to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from these requirements “when the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”

To read this article in its entirety please visit NAHB.