Fedweek

An expansion of sick leave benefits under a Coronavirus relief law that takes effect today (April 1) will apply to federal employees in some situations, the Labor Department has said, although many questions remain unanswered.

The provision is in the “Families First” relief law—the second in what so far is a series of three related to the virus—which provides for paid leave for up to 12 weeks for certain virus-related purposes primarily for private sector employees.

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Guidance from the Labor Department, which oversees the private sector-related aspects of the law, says that the “vast majority” of federal employees would not be eligible for a provision governing 10 of those 12 weeks—although it does not specify what the exceptions would be.

However, it also says that federal employees generally will be eligible for the other two weeks, which would be in addition to existing sick leave entitlements. That allows for paid sick leave at the lesser of the employee’s regular salary or $511 a day for 10 work days for those who: are subject to a federal, state or local quarantine order; have been advise by a health-care provider to self-quarantine; or are experiencing symptoms and are awaiting a medical diagnosis.

The amount is lower, the lesser of two-thirds of salary or $200 a day, for 10 work days to care for an individual subject to a quarantine or who has been advised to self-quarantine; to care for a child whose school or day care is closed; or if experiencing health conditions similar to those of the virus, as designated by HHS.

The law however allows employers to exempt from its coverage health care providers and emergency responders. Further, OMB “has the authority to exclude some categories of U.S. government executive branch employees from taking certain kinds of paid sick leave,” the Labor Department guidance says.

OMB has not issued guidance on potential limits nor has OPM issued guidance on the authority in general nor on procedures for employees to use to invoke the authority. The Labor Department recommends that federal employees “seek guidance from your respective employers as to your eligibility to take paid sick leave.”

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