Last week, the president signed a new coronavirus emergency relief package into law. That package mandates up to two weeks of paid leave for many workers who need to take time off due to COVID-19, if they are:
- Ill with COVID-19
- Seeking a COVID-19 diagnosis
- Seeking preventative care for the virus
- Caring for sick family members
Moreover, many workers qualify for up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for their children during school shutdowns or if their child care provider is closed.
Who qualifies and for how much?
You probably qualify for this leave if you work at a small or midsize employer, including a nonprofit or government agency, as long as you have worked there for at least 30 days.
If you are sick, quarantined or seeking care for yourself, you will receive your full salary up to a maximum of $511 per day. Caring for children or sick family members qualifies you for two-thirds of your regular pay up to $200 per day.
- People who work at companies with more than 500 people are excluded.
- People who work at companies with less than 50 employees could be exempted by the Labor Department if providing the leave would cause undue hardship.
- People who work on the front lines of the crisis may be excluded.
- Part-time workers qualify to be paid the amount they usually learn in a two-week period.
Self-employed individuals, including gig economy workers, can reduce the amount they pay in taxes and ultimately take a tax credit for the days they use. You should calculate your average daily income and subtract that amount per day off you take due to COVID-19.
Ultimately, businesses will be reimbursed by the government for the amount in paid leave they pay out, along with employer-paid health insurance premiums. This will come in the form of a payroll tax credit coming in the next three months, but there has been talk of getting employers the money earlier if they can’t wait that long. Tax-wise, the reimbursements are fully refundable to employers, including the self-employed.
How do I take the leave?
It should be relatively straightforward. Notify your employer of the leave and take it. The Labor Department will issue guidelines to help employers understand how much paid leave each employee should get. Those guidelines are due by April 2. The program runs until December 31.
If you are concerned you may not qualify for this leave, be aware that many companies are voluntarily offering new or additional sick leave for COVID-19. And, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, most employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing their jobs.