WASHINGTON – Department of Defense employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic will have the option of taking up to two weeks of emergency paid sick leave in addition to other paid leave entitlements.
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, allows civilians across the Defense Department to take the emergency leave from April 1 through Dec. 31, provided that they meet certain conditions. The new emergency sick leave will be separate from the normal sick leave civilians accrue and can be taken without using accrued sick leave.
“This is a new leave category that is provided to employees that may need to use this option to be able to care for family members or themselves, which is critically important as we all navigate our way through COVID-19,” said Todd Fore, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for civilian personnel.
The leave is available to civilians required to remain in quarantine by a federal, local or state quarantine order, employees who have been advised by a health care professional to self-quarantine; and to employees who experience COVID-19 symptoms and receive a medical diagnosis. Employees in these categories will qualify to receive full-pay emergency leave at their normal pay rate. They must, however, provide documentation of the government agency that issued the quarantine order or the name of the health care provider who advised the self-quarantine.
Fore said employees who wish to take the emergency leave should carefully read the requirements.
“It is complicated,” he said. “I would highly encourage anyone or supervisors of anyone who’s using the leave to familiarize themselves with the significant level of detail of the hours.”
Employees who provide care for individuals who have been subject to a federal or local stay-at-home order or have been advised by a doctor to remain home can qualify but will be paid two-thirds of their normal pay rate. This includes parents who care for a child under the age of 18 whose school may be closed or had their place of care closed due to quarantine restrictions.
“It could be that you don’t have a leave bank and you don’t want to go into advanced leave status,” Fore said. “So this leave enables you to be compensated to be able to care for yourself or a family member.”
He said the civilian pay system has not yet been adjusted for those that care for others and employees who take sick leave for caregiving may receive their normal full pay for now. Those employees would subsequently be asked to repay one-third of the sum.
Fore said that the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will take back the owed sum in future pay periods and increments. He added that DFAS has been working on updating the leave system so that employees will be paid the correct amount.
Fore reminds employees choosing to take the emergency leave option in the care provider categories that they should work closely with supervisors to develop a balanced schedule and closely monitor their pay stubs.
Part-time employees will also be eligible for additional sick leave, but the maximum amount of leave will be based on the average number of hours that employee works over a two-week period.
DOD employees who fall under certain exemptions may not be eligible for the emergency paid leave. For instance, agencies can exclude essential health care providers from taking leave.
Employees must have scheduled work hours in order to take the emergency leave, meaning that civilians in furlough status, employees who have been suspended or employees who are in leave-without-pay status will not be eligible. Emergency paid leave may also not be used on holidays or in conjunction with other leave.
“Thus, an employee cannot receive two types of paid leave for the same hours,” the summary of statutory and regulatory requirements in connection with the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act states.
Unless an employee is allowed to use paid sick leave intermittently, leave must be taken in full-day increments.