You may have heard that the Families First Act, the bill passed by the federal government to help families who are in crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, includes paid sick leave. But what does that mean? Who can get it? When does it start? We’re here to help answer your questions!
What exactly does paid sick leave mean?
Under this bill, anyone who is told to quarantine by a doctor, is showing symptoms, or is potentially exposed to the virus and meets the qualifications below will be able to take up to two weeks off and be paid 100% of their normal salary, up to $511 per day. So if you make less than $130,000 a year, you will be able to take your full salary under this policy.
Who qualifies for paid sick leave under this bill?
Anyone who works for a company with less than 500 employees should qualify for up to two weeks of paid sick leave under the plan. But some businesses with under 50 employees or who are in the health care sector may be able to apply for exemptions. Any small businesses that believe paid sick leave would “jeopardize the viability of the business” could apply to the Department of Labor for an exemption. However, it is unclear how employers would prove that providing paid leave would make a negative impact.
Employers that have more than 500 employees are exempt from the bill. The logic behind this exemption is that most of those companies already have paid sick leave policies in place. But there are many businesses with over 500 employees, like large grocery chains and restaurant groups, that don’t. Plus, many of the companies that do provide paid sick leave provide less than the two weeks that are covered in this bill. So if you work for a giant company, you may be out of luck.
But if you are a gig worker or self-employed, you might be in luck. While gig workers and the self-employed don’t get sick leave exactly, they would get a refundable tax credit that would cover the same amount.
Part-time workers can also qualify for paid sick leave. Part-time workers would be paid for up to two weeks at a rate that averages their normal hours. So if someone normally works 15 hours a week, they could get paid for a total of 30 hours.
People don’t have to be diagnosed with coronavirus to get the benefit. Anyone who meets the above qualifications can qualify for two weeks of leave if they are told to quarantine, showing symptoms, or potentially exposed to the virus.
When does it start?
If you are eligible for paid sick leave, you can start using the benefit starting on April 2, 2020.