Congress Passes Emergency Paid Sick Leave Law in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides federal paid sick leave and expanded FMLA rights to workers affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

By , J.D., University of Missouri School of Law

The coronavirus global pandemic has caused many employers to temporarily close or to require employees to work from home. Among those workers still travelling to the workplace, many need to take time off work to self-isolate or to care for family members, but are under financial pressure to continue working.

Congress has addressed this situation by passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The new law lends support to employees in two ways. First, it grants up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to those who work for companies with fewer than 500 employees. Employees can use this paid sick leave if:

  • they've contracted the coronavirus or are quarantined
  • they need to look after a family member who has contracted the virus or is quarantined, or
  • they must care for a child who is at home due to a school or daycare closure.

Under the law, paid sick leave is available to full-time, part-time, and self-employed workers.

Second, the new law provides for emergency paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees can use this emergency FMLA leave to care for a child who is home from school or daycare because of a coronavirus-related closure.

The law is effective April 2, 2020, and expires on December 31, 2020.

For more details, read our article on the new emergency paid sick leave law.