Effective April 1, 2020, small businesses are required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to give their employees paid leave in certain circumstances relating to the coronavirus. Employees who cannot work due to one of the reasons listed below are entitled to two weeks of paid leave, with an additional 10 weeks of paid leave if they have to care for a son or daughter whose school or daycare has been closed due to the coronavirus.

How do employees qualify for paid leave?
Employees receive two weeks of paid leave if you have work for them to do but they cannot come to work (or work from home) because:

  1. The employee has been quarantined by a health care provider or by government order.
  2. The employee has COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis.
  3. The employee must stay home to care for someone who has been quarantined by a health care provider or by government order.
  4. The employee must stay home to care for a child under 18 whose school or childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19. These employees are also eligible for an additional 10 weeks of paid leave, for a total of 12 weeks’ total paid leave.

Employees taking leave for reasons 1 and 2 above must be paid their regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day.

Employees taking paid leave for reasons 3 and 4 above must be paid two-thirds their regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day.

Can my employees choose to stay at home and take paid leave?
No. Employees cannot decide on their own to self-quarantine and be entitled to receive paid leave. To qualify for paid leave under reason #1 above, the employee must be advised by a doctor or other health care provider to self-quarantine.

Do my employees qualify for paid leave if they have to stay home with their children because school is closed for summer vacation?
No. Paid leave is not available in this situation because the school is closed for summer, not because of COVID-19. To qualify for paid leave, the school must be closed for reasons due to COVID-19, which is not very common now that school has closed for the summer. However, if the child’s summer daycare – a camp or other program in which the employee’s child is enrolled – is closed or unavailable for a COVID-19 related reason, the employee may be entitled to paid leave.

Do employees working from home qualify for paid leave?
Employees working from home are not entitled to paid leave because they are still working.

What documentation do I need to get from employees who request paid leave?

Employees must provide appropriate documentation to request paid leave which must include the following:

  1. The employee’s name and the dates leave is requested
  2. A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave
  3. A statement that the employee is unable to work or telework for this reason
  4. Documentation supporting the reason for leave
  • For leave related to quarantine, the employee’s statement should include the name of the health care provider advising self-quarantine. If the employee is requesting leave to stay home to take care of someone in quarantine, the employee must give the name of this person and their relation to the employee.
  • For leave based on a school closure or childcare unavailability, the employee’s statement should include the name and age of the child to be cared for, the name of the school or daycare that has closed, and a representation that no other person will be providing care for the child during the time the employee is receiving paid leave. If the child is older than 14, the employee must show that special circumstances require them to stay home with the child during daylight hours.

One of my employees says they are tired, have a cough, or have other symptoms of COVID-19 and is taking leave to seek a medical diagnosis. What documentation may I require from the employee to document their efforts to obtain a diagnosis?
You may require the employee to identify their symptoms and provide you with a date for a test or doctor’s appointment. You may not, however, require the employee to provide further documentation before allowing them to use paid leave for COVID-19 related symptoms. The minimal documentation required is intentional so that employees with COVID-19 symptoms may easily take leavey and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Are there tax credits for this paid leave?
Yes. Employers can offset the cost of leave by keeping a portion of the quarterly federal employment taxes they would otherwise deposit with the IRS.  If the cost of the leave is more than your federal employment tax bill, you can request an advance refund from the IRS using form 7200.  To claim a payroll tax credit, you must retain the documentation described above and comply with any IRS procedures for claiming the tax credit.  For more information about how to claim these payroll tax credits and what documentation is required, click here.  For more information about form 7200, click here.

Is there an exemption for small businesses?
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can be exempt from providing paid leave if it would jeopardize the viability of the business. The exemption only applies to requests for paid leave due to school closure or unavailability of childcare due to COVID-19. If an employee requests paid leave for any of the other qualifying reasons (such as the employee is told to self-quarantine by a doctor or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19), the employer must comply with the requirements of the FFCRA and provide the paid leave regardless of the financial hardship it may cause the employer.  

For more information about the small business exemption, click here.

Is this paid leave a permanent requirement?
No. The paid leave required under the FFCRA expires December 31, 2020.

New Poster Required

The paid leave law requires all employers to provide a notice to their employees explaining the new paid time off that they may be eligible for because of COVID-19.

Click here for the poster in English.

Click here for the poster in Spanish.

Additional Resources

For more information from the US Department of Labor, click here.

Here is a one-page summary of when employees can request paid leave.

The US Department of Labor has published a summary of this law here and a very detailed set of questions and answers here.

Click here for a Fact Sheet on this leave from the US Department of Labor in English.

Click here for a Fact Sheet on this leave from the US Department of Labor in Spanish.