OPM has told federal agencies that they may now begin allowing their employees to take a special form of paid leave under the “emergency paid leave” program created nearly two months ago, although agencies now in turn must set up their own procedures and requirements for employees to take that leave.
New guidance carries out provisions of the pandemic relief law creating a $570 million fund which agencies draw on for employees who are “unable to work” because of certain pandemic-related considerations. According to the guidance, these are if the employee is:
(1) Subject to COVID-19 governmental quarantine or isolation order/advisory;
(2) Self-quarantining due to COVID-19 concerns on the advice of a health care provider;
(3) Caring for an individual subject to (1) such order/advisory or (2) such advice;
(4) Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and actively seeking (i.e., taking immediate steps to obtain) a medical diagnosis;
(5) Caring for a child when required because, due to COVID-19 precautions, the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the child is participating in virtual learning instruction, or the child’s care provider is unavailable;
(6) Experiencing any other substantially similar condition (as approved by OPM);
(7) Caring for a family member (i) who has a mental or physical disability or who is 55 years of age or older and (ii) who is incapable of self-care, without regard to whether another individual other than the employee is available to care for such family member, if the place of care for such family member is closed or the direct care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19; and/or
(8) Obtaining immunization related to COVID-19 or recovering from any injury, disability, illness, or condition related to such immunization (after using any administrative leave provided by the employing agency).
For a full-time employee, the maximum amount is 600 hours (15 work weeks), with the amount prorated for part-time employees. The fund is to be available until September 30, and retroactive claims dating to when the law was enacted March 11—but not before—will be allowed. “Employees can ask their agency to retroactively convert other categories of leave they may have taken to EPL, if they meet the eligibility requirements,” OPM said.
Each agency is provide employees with a form, modeled after an OPM template, to request the leave; “employees should check with their human resources office on the procedures for claiming EPL,” said one of a series of documents OPM issued April 28 regarding the fund.
“Documentation requirements vary depending on the qualifying circumstance. The leave request form will describe generally required documentation. Employees will need to make certain certifications and may need to provide explanations in certain circumstances. An agency may request supplemental information, explanations, or certifications, if it believes it is necessary,” it said.