The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) was passed in March as a response to the Coronavirus pandemic. One of the provisions gave employees of small businesses (with a workforce of 500 or less) two weeks paid sick leave if they have the Coronavirus and need to be quarantined. OPM issued correspondence last week to clarify that this potentially applies to all federal workers. From April 1st to the end of 2020, federal employees may take two more weeks than normally allotted for paid sick leave. If the paid sick leave is for the Coronavirus, it counts toward this “extra” amount of up to 80 hours. Agencies have discretion on granting the special sick leave, which any employee of the Federal Government can request. However, an agency can deny a request “for good cause” – such as an emergency responder or a healthcare worker’s request when the employee is needed on the frontlines in battling the Coronavirus’ impact.
A confirmed test result may or may not be needed – OPM’s guidance fails to get into those specifics, although it is clarified that the paid sick leave can be used if the time off was for acquiring a diagnosis for symptoms related to the COVID-19 virus. Without medical advice, paid sick leave from EPSLA is not allowed. Choosing to self-quarantine without the instruction of a medical professional would have to be done using annual leave or regular sick leave, not the additional amount stipulated in EPSLA. Beyond the two weeks potentially available for all Feds, even more paid sick leave might be added onto a worker’s annual limit. For this, a confirmed COVID-19 test result would definitely be needed along with a more extensive verification and approval process.
The paid time off for childcare that was included for small businesses in emergency legislation will not be available to Feds, although federal employees can start using their own, new family leave, which kicks in on October 1st of this year. Both types of paid family leave are for 12 months.
Other additional leave might be available for Feds in the crisis, too. Agencies such as the State Department and the Department of the Interior have offered their staff, who are teleworking along with caring for their children, up to 10 hours of paid administrative leave per week. Not every agency is as generous- the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not included this extra paid leave despite its own subagencies’ efforts to implement it. The U.S. Forest Service, whose workforce is primarily teleworking except for firefighters, law officers, and those involved in selling timber, had its request for a paid administrative leave program blocked by the USDA.
Until Next Time,
**Written by Benjamin Derge, Financial Planner. The information has been obtained from sources considered reliable but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Benjamin Derge and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Links are being provided for information purposes only. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize, or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors.
Additional Sick Leave