Benefits for Employees Affected by COVID-19

March 26, 2020

There are many employer-provided as well as state and federal benefits and protections provided to employees which may be used by affected workers. Benefits include:

Sick Leave/Vacation/PTO:

Employees may have accumulated sick leave, vacation or PTO that may be used to cover time away from work. Washington law allows for use of these benefits to care for sick family members or to care for children if schools or daycares are closed by government officials. Notably, Washington prohibits employers from requiring employees to use time accumulated pursuant to the Sick and Safe Time law.

Unemployment Benefits:

Washington and Idaho each administer programs for unemployment benefits available to employees affected by COVID-19. Washington has enacted emergency rules specific to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and related employment effects.

Washington and Idaho both allow employers to temporarily discontinue work but keep the employee on “standby” or “job attached.” In Washington, the employee may remain on “standby” for up to 12 weeks while Idaho employees may be designated as “job attached” for up to 16 weeks.

Washington employers may apply to participate in the Shared Work Program. Employers participating in the Shared Work Program may reduce the hours of their permanent part-time and full-time employees up to 50% while allowing the employee to receive a corresponding amount of unemployment benefits. More information about the Shared Work Program may be found here.

Finally, employers may furlough employees. Furlough is a type of layoff that can be either a complete stoppage of work or reduced hours.  Furloughed employees may qualify for unemployment benefits.

Worker’s Compensation:

In limited circumstances, employees who are healthcare providers, first responders, and others become infected as the direct result of job duties may be eligible for benefits through workers’ compensation under Washington or Idaho programs.

Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave:

In instances where an employee or an employee’s family member is sick with COVID-19, the employee may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of Washington’s paid family and medical leave. Employees who may qualify for benefits should be given the required notice and may apply for benefits through Employment Security. More information regarding PFML benefits related to COVID-19 may be found here.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

The new federal legislation was signed into law on March 18, 2020, and becomes effective on April 1, 2020.  The provisions focus on providing paid sick leave benefits to workers as well as expanded FMLA benefits.  More information about the expanded Family and Medical Leave requirements can be found here and more information about the employee paid leave rights can be found here.  Further, the U.S. Department of Labor has just released additional guidance in the form of a Q&A.  The Q&A can be found here.

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