- Many US companies do not offer paid sick leave, which can put a financial burden on employees when they are sick.
- Congress passed a new bill that could temporarily change that for employees and families affected by the coronavirus.
- Business Insider spoke with an employment lawyer on how this bill will affect small businesses and employees.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Trump signed a bill into law that gives workers affected by the new coronavirus additional resources and guaranteed paid leave.
The US House of Representatives initially passed the HR 6201 bill, or the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, on March 14 to establish a package of emergency paid leave and benefits for families. The bill guarantees free coronavirus testing and covers the cost of emergency-room visits and doctor fees. It also supplements food assistance, paid sick leave, and unemployment insurance, among other provisions.
Paid sick leave could help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Business Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported. But 25% of American workers – or 32 million people – don’t have access to paid sick leave from their employers.
Business Insider spoke with David Barron, a labour and employment lawyer, on how this bill will affect small businesses and employers.
Many US companies do not offer paid sick leave, which can put a financial burden on employees when they are sick. “That’s the problem they’re trying to solve by creating a new federal entitlement to pay in certain situations,” Barron said.
According to Business Insider’s Kate Taylor, McDonald’s lobbied the Trump administration and Congress to alter the bill. The fast-food giant said plans to use a tax credit to cover the cost would fail to protect franchisees.
Here’s everything you need to know about the bill and how it could affect your business and employees.
The bill will apply to businesses with fewer than 500 employees
If you’re a small or midsize business with fewer than 500 employees, your business is covered by the bill. If your company already gives two or more weeks of paid sick leave, the bill may not change much. But if your company does not provide the two weeks, your company will be required to give employees job-protected paid leave.
Under the legislation, employers initially pay for the sick leave but are fully reimbursed by the federal government within three months through refundable tax credits that count against employers’ payroll tax.
According to the bill, companies with fewer than 50 employees will be allowed to opt out of the provisions if they would jeopardize business viability.
Employees will be paid for time off related to the coronavirus
If your business falls within the above requirements, an employee may claim paid leave for any of the following reasons related to the coronavirus public-health emergency:
- They have been exposed to the coronavirus or exhibit symptoms of it.
- They are recommended to quarantine by a healthcare provider and cannot work from home.
- They need to care for a family member who has been exposed to or exhibits symptoms of the coronavirus.
- They need to care for a child younger than 18 years old because their school or day care is closed, or their childcare provider is unavailable.
Barron said the bill entitles employees to 10 weeks of paid leave.
“That could include not only them being sick, but caring for a family member who’s sick or having to stay home because your child is out of school because of corona shutdowns,” he said.
House Democrats added a provision to the bill earlier this week that says any extension beyond 10 weeks would be granted only to parents taking care of children with shuttered schools and day-care centres.
The bill says the first 14 days of leave may be unpaid, then employees will be paid based on their normally scheduled hours and can be paid no less than two-thirds of their regular pay rate.
The provisions are temporary and will remain in effect through the end of the year
The law will go into effect within 15 days of its signing and remain in effect through the end of the calendar year.
Barron said the bill could change the way employees show up to work and that employers should prepare for increased absenteeism, especially among parents who need to take care of their children while schools are closed.
“There’s going to be millions of people who could potentially take advantage of that, including healthcare workers,” he said.
It’s important to note that employers cannot discourage or prevent eligible employees from claiming paid sick leave. If they do, it could be considered discriminatory or an obstruction of their legal rights.
But the best way to keep healthy employees working is to offer incentives and benefits apart from the federal government – which some companies are doing. A representative from the pizza chain &pizza told Business Insider it expanded the company’s sick-leave policy, increased hourly pay by $US1 for all shop staff, offered $US5 Lyft rides, and provided unlimited pizza to employees and their immediate families.
This post will be updated as additional details develop.
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