New employee leave provisions apply to small businesses, too


A new law affects provisions for employee leave connected to the COVID-19 illness.

If your business employs fewer than 500 workers, you may be subject to new requirements for employees who take leave for COVID-19-related reasons. Even if you are a business with less than 50 employees these new requirements apply to you.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, effective April 1, 2020, requires covered employers to provide two distinct types of leave in connection with COVID-19:

  • Two weeks of paid sick leave
  • Expanded protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act when an employee is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave for child care. The provisions will apply through December 31, 2020

Covered employers are private employers with 500 or fewer employees. As originally passed in 1993, FMLA generally applied to employers with 50 or more employees, but the FFCRA’s expanded protections also apply to smaller businesses with less than 50 employees.


There are two different leave entitlements:

  • Two Weeks of Paid Sick Leave applies for the employee’s:
    • own COVID-19 disruption (quarantine, symptoms, diagnosis, local order)
    • care for an individual subject to a quarantine, symptoms, diagnosis, school closure or childcare disruption
  • Emergency Family Medical Leave applies for:
    • only those that need leave to care for a child impacted by a school closure or childcare disruption
    • up to 12 weeks, paid for weeks 3-12

The rules apply when an employee is unable to work or to work remotely. The paid entitlement ranges from full pay to 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay. Both entitlements have maximum daily and aggregate caps. Although the employers must pay the leave entitlements, they can qualify for tax credits.


If you are a small employer do not assume you are exempt. The Department of Labor has published details of the new law at: Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employer Paid Leave Requirements

The agency also has a downloadable poster of Employee Rights that employers are required to post in a conspicuous place on its premises to inform employees of the enhanced benefits.

Neither The Cincinnati Insurance Company nor its affiliates or representatives offer tax, payroll or legal advice. Consult with your tax adviser, payroll administrator or attorney about your specific situation. Speak to your local, independent insurance agent for information about how the new law may impact your Employment Practices Liability Insurance coverage.

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