Much time and energy is focused on unemployment benefits and other relief efforts for those who are out of work, but what about those who still have their job but run into issues such as a required quarantine or the sudden closure of their child’s school? How do they float things for the potential weeks (or even longer) where they won’t be able to go to work?
One option is to fall back upon the sick leave benefits through your employer, as required by the state and federal governments.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.
Generally, the Act provides that employers provide paid sick leave if the employee is quarantined and/or experiencing symptoms themselves. And it also requires that employers provide workers leave to provide care for others subject to quarantine or for a child whose school or child care provider is closed. The amount of pay required varies, and certain employers are exempt. For a full breakdown on the provisions of the Act, see the description from the US Department of Labor.
Health related business closures
Workers may use accrued Washington paid sick leave if their place of business is shut down by government mandate due to a health-related reason.
Let’s say the company you work for was open. But then someone came down with COVID and it had to shut down for 10 days, test everyone and do a deep clean while everyone quarantines. Even if you came up negative and were not sick at all, the State requires that your sick leave still be available for you towards this scenario.
Other authorized uses of paid sick leave are detailed under RCW 49.46.210.
School or childcare closure
Another situation that we are all too familiar with in 2020 is the challenge of childcare and education in the face of the pandemic.
Paid sick leave may also be used to care for children whose school or child care is closed.
Closure of schools and child care centers for health-related reasons is a valid qualification for use of accrued Washington paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA affords workers up to two weeks (80 hours) of paid leave at 67% of the worker’s standard rate of pay. This act is in effect through Dec. 31.
And of course there is the scenario where you yourself are required to quarantine. Maybe you’ve been exposed and are required to get tested and stay home at least until the test results are returned.
Workers ordered to quarantine may also use paid sick leave.
Under the FFCRA, paid sick leave is available to workers ordered to quarantine by a health care provider. The worker is also eligible for paid sick leave in the event that someone in their care is similarly ordered to quarantine. Under these circumstances, up to two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave is to be provided at their regular rate of pay.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
When a worker or their family experiences a qualifying event, Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML)may afford workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave for eligible workers.
Qualifying events include the birth of a child, serious injury or illness, and preparation for or return from military deployment.
Workers that require PFML apply directly to the state. PFML benefits are paid by the state. Workers must have worked 820 hours across one or multiple jobs in the last year to be eligible for PFML.
For more information
If you have additional questions or want to dive deeper into the policies involved, refer to L&I, FFCRA and PFML websites for more information about paid leave.
FAQ pages specific to Washington paid sick leave, Paid Family and Medical Leave and to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) answer many common questions about paid leave and eligibility. Workers and their employers may wish to be informed about available paid leave in the event of an emergency or qualifying event.
This article is a part of the Financial Survival Handbook [link forthcoming], which is one section of the COVID-19 HANDBOOKS FOR THE CREATIVE SECTOR. All this month, we will post new daily articles on Financial Survival and other refreshed articles from the Handbook.
Much of the information in this section is taken from weekly emails by the Washington State Coronavirus Response Economic Resiliency Team. If you would like to see all of their weekly Business & Worker Updates, subscribe here.