Federal Legislation in the works for COVID-19: Providing Leave to Employees

Please note that there is newer information on this law. Please see the latest information here:


The House passed federal legislation called “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” on March 14th, 2020, and it is now headed to the Senate. There will likely be some revisions as it goes through the Senate. Employers should be aware that this is coming, but shouldn’t take drastic measures. Employers Council will keep you updated once the Act is finalized.

As currently drafted, it is for those employers with 500 or fewer employees.  The small number is unusual as federal legislation usually is passed to burden larger employers, and is likely because it includes aid and relief for small businesses.

The significant provisions concerning leave are as follows:

  • Twelve weeks of paid job-protected FMLA leave after the first 14 days. For those first 14 days, employees may use accrued personal or sick leave, but cannot be required to do so.
  • The leave benefit goes into effect after an employee has worked for the employer for 30 calendar days or approximately one month.
  • This is short term legislation – it will go into effect 15 days after it is enacted and expire December 31st, 2020.
  • The law does not pre-empt state or local sick leave, meaning that whatever is most generous prevails.
  • Employers must post notice of employees’ rights under this law.

The bill specifically calls out its use for COVID-19.

  • The employee may use the leave for COVID-19 requirements or recommendations, the care of a family member based on their requirements or recommendations, or for a child whose school has shut down.
  • Employers must pay for the first two weeks of sick leave. Part-time employees are entitled to the average number of hours they work in a two-week period.
  • The sick leave must be paid at an employee’s regular rate of pay.
  • After these two weeks, if the employee must continue to remain at home for COVID-19 reasons, the employer need only pay two-thirds of the employee’s pay.

In addition to the Families First Act, the IRS currently provides a credit to employers to reimburse 100% of the qualified sick leave wages as a credit against Employer Social Security Tax.

Watch for updates on other provisions for this legislation.