Attorneys counsel businesses grappling with paid leave act.

As the Families First Coronavirus Response Act goes into effect today, small business owners scramble to clarify the implications, legal and otherwise, it has for their companies.

"I'd estimate that 75% to 80% of my time on the low end has involved advising employers on how to navigate this new world that we're in," Lucas Asper, a shareholder at Ogletree Deakins, said. "This has been my world for the past three weeks."

Until Dec. 31, the law (PDF) requires that most small businesses offer two weeks of paid sick leave at regular pay to any employee unable to work or telework after being instructed to quarantine or isolate, developing COVID-19 or displaying COVID-19 symptoms pending diagnosis. Employees unable to work due to a quarantined individual or out-of-school child under their care can request paid sick leave at two-thirds of their typical pay rate for up to two weeks.

Most private employers with fewer than 500 employees and public employers with any employees will be expected to comply with a few exceptions for healthcare providers and other groups.

Under a corresponding Family and Medical Leave Act expansion, most small business employers and a few public employers must allow leave for employees prevented from working while caring for a child whose school or daycare closed for an additional 10 weeks. This leave only applies to employees who have been employed for 30 days and equates to two-thirds of their regular pay.

Emergency family leave will be enforced two weeks after an employee's COVID-19 related absence.

FFCRA-paid sick leave caps at $200 per day for each qualifying employee if he or she is caring for a quarantined individual or a child whose school or childcare facility is closed, according to Jamie Hedgepath, an employment law specialist at Nexsen Pruet. Employees requesting paid sick leave because they are under a quarantine or isolation order or have COVID-19 symptoms are eligible to receive up to $511 per day.

Employees are not entitled to both paid sick leave and emergency FMLA under the FFCRA at the same time, he said. If necessary, emergency FMLA will pick up where the FFCRA paid sick leave leaves off.

"You could have a scenario, for example, where someone had the virus or was caring for someone who was self-isolating or something like that, but they also have a child they have to provide care for on the paid sick leave, they still only get two weeks," Hedgepath said. "The additional 10 weeks of emergency FMLA leave...

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