If you have to be in quarantine because you were exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) at work—or even if your employer asked you to stay home because of possible exposure but didn’t offer the option of working remotely—you may be facing lost income. Many people in this situation are eligible for paid sick leave, especially with the expanded sick leave provided under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). And employees in some states may be eligible for unemployment benefits while under mandated quarantine.
But if you don’t have access to sick leave—for instance, because you work for a large employer that’s exempt under the FFCRA and doesn't provide sick leave on its own—you may be wondering if you could get temporary disability payments through workers’ compensation to help cover your wage loss. Unfortunately, it could be very difficult to get these benefits unless you’re a healthcare provider or first responder who treated an infected person.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials or insurers in some states—including Washington and Kentucky—announced policies to make it clear that healthcare workers and first responders would be able to get workers’ comp wage-replacement benefits while in quarantine because of direct, on-the-job exposure to an infected patient.
Workers in other particularly high-risk jobs might be able to demonstrate that they qualify for workers’ comp benefits for COVID-19 based on a documented workplace exposure, but their cases would have to decided based on the specific circumstances.
States have different waiting periods before employees can collect temporary disability benefits. You usually have to be off work for somewhere between three and seven days before you can collect benefits; however, if you’re out for a longer time (generally 14 to 21 days), you’ll get benefits from the beginning of the period when you couldn’t work.
Because quarantines for COVID-19 exposure are 14 days, the waiting period could mean that you won’t collect benefits for the entire time, depending on your state's requirements. In Washington State, for instance, you wouldn’t receive benefits for the first three days of quarantine unless you had to stay off work on the 14th day after you were exposed to the virus.