There is some good news for employers and employees of small businesses during this pandemic. On March 18, 2020, the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides various forms of emergency relief. The Act will impact employers by requiring emergency paid sick leave and family leave for workers who may need to take time off when they or a family member are infected with the virus. This is great news for employees whose jobs do not provide paid sick leave.
The first leave portion, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, provides employees up to two weeks of sick leave paid by their employer at 100% of the employee’s regular pay, up to $511 per day. Employees can take this leave if they cannot work because they have contracted COVID-19, if they are seeking treatment for symptoms of COVID-19 or if they are subjected to either a government quarantine order or a health care provider’s recommendation to self-isolate. Leave is also available if the employee is caring for someone subject to a quarantine order, or if their child’s school or daycare has closed and the employee must stay home to care for the child. Please note that in these circumstances, an employee is paid at 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate, and the maximum daily benefit is $200.
The second leave portion, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, provides an additional ten weeks of paid leave beyond the first two weeks of sick leave if an employee needs additional time off because their child’s school or daycare remains closed because of COVID-19. The leave can be unpaid for the first two weeks, as they would be covered under the sick leave described above. The leave for the remaining ten weeks must be paid at no less than 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay up to $200 per day. This leave is also only available to employees who have worked for their employer for at least 30 days. Employees will be eligible to take these leaves by April 2, 2020.
Now, under the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law (MESTL), most employees are allowed to earn up to 40 hours per year of sick leave to address certain personal and family needs. An employee earns sick time in relation to the number of hours that employee has worked. Workers must earn at least one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked. All employers must provide earned sick time, but only employers of 11 or more employees must provide earned sick time that is paid. Smaller employers must also provide earned sick time, but it may be unpaid. If you are entitled to FFCRA leave and Massachusetts earned sick leave, you may choose to take FFCRA leave first and to save Massachusetts earned sick leave for later use.