OPM has posted a notice calling attention to the fact that a special sick leave benefit under a Coronavirus relief law that applied to federal employees in some situations expired as of the end of calendar year 2020.
The provision was in the “Families First” relief law which provided up to 12 weeks of a special form of sick leave for certain virus-related purposes. While that benefit was mainly directed at the private sector, some federal employees were eligible for two of those weeks (80 hours) in addition to regular federal sick leave entitlements, but generally not for the other 10 weeks.
Qualifying conditions include situations in which an employee has been quarantined due to the virus, is caring for such a person, or is caring for a child due to a virus-related closing of a school or day care center. Amounts payable varied according to the conditions cited, subject to caps that in many cases were below an employee’s regular rate of pay for leave time.
It is not clear how widely the authority was used in the federal workplace despite several notices from OPM stating that agencies were obligated to pay the benefit if an employee qualified. It further is unclear how widely agencies used an authority under the law to exempt employees in certain occupations who otherwise would have qualified.