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What is the federal government doing to get Rhode Islanders needed sick leave?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act contain provisions to provide emergency paid sick leave and family leave to help American workers get through the COVID-19 crisis.  There is more that needs to be done to improve these new laws, but they are an improvement over prior laws.

The Families First package established a temporary coronavirus-related sick leave benefit, paid by employers with fewer than 500 workers.  To help these businesses provide this leave, employers are given federal tax credits to fully offset the cost of this added responsibility.  The benefit is available from April 1 through December 31, 2020.

Is my employer required to offer this paid leave?

Most businesses are covered, but to learn more about the requirements for employers to provide paid leave, please visit the Department of Labor’s COVID-19 Paid Leave webpage, or, for more detailed information, its Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

How much paid sick leave am I eligible to take, and for what reasons can I take it?

If your employer is required to offer paid sick leave, you are eligible to take up to 80 hours (two weeks) of paid sick leave, depending on your regular schedule.  These hours should be paid at your regular rate of pay (up to $511 per day).   If you need to care for someone who is isolated/quarantined, or take care of a child due to a closure of school or child care, you will be paid at 2/3 of your regular rate of pay (up to $200 per day).

You may take paid sick leave if you are unable to work or telework because:

  • You are covered by a quarantine or isolation order by a federal, state, or local authority;
  • You are advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns over COVID-19;
  • You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking diagnosis;
  • You are caring for an individual who is covered by a quarantine or isolation order or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  • You are caring for a son or daughter if, due to COVID-19, their school or place of care is closed or if their child care provider is unavailable; or
  • You are experiencing a “substantially similar condition” as specified by HHS and DOL. 

How much paid family leave am I eligible to take, and for what reasons can I take it?

If your employer is required to offer paid family leave, you are eligible to take up to ten additional weeks of paid time at 2/3 of your regular rate of pay (up to $200 per day).  You can take this leave only to take care of a minor child due to a closure of school or child care, or due to the unavailability of a child care provider.

If I take paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, does that count against other types of paid sick leave to which I am entitled by law or my employer’s policy?

No.  Paid sick leave under the Families First Act is in addition to other leave provided under federal, state, or local law, an applicable collective bargaining agreement, or your employer’s existing company policy.

You should review related information on Rhode Island’s Paid Sick and Safe leave and unemployment and temporary disability insurance.

What do I do if my employer denies my paid sick leave?

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor has the authority to investigate and enforce compliance with Families First Act requirements.  Employers may not discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who lawfully takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the law, files a complaint, or institutes a proceeding under or related to this law.  Employers in violation of the provisions of the Families First law will be subject to penalties and enforcement by WHD.

Please call WHD at 1-866-487-9243 for additional information or to file a complaint.

I am an employer.  Where can I find information and resources on my requirements?

The Department of Labor has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions as employers adapt to the Families First Act requirements, as well as a separate webpage on notifying employees of these changes.

More information on tax credits for small businesses, as well as other means of paying for employee paid leave, can be found on my Small Business COVID-19 resources page.

What if my child’s school is closed, but I still need to go to work?

As of March 29, and until further notice, the Rhode Island Department of Health and Human Services mandated closure of all child care providers.  The closure date will continue to be reevaluated by state officials.

Coronavirus-related school closures are impacting many families, presenting challenges in fulfilling their children’s child care needs.  Rhode Island’s government has partnered with to give all Rhode Island workers, including those on the front lines, access to the site’s premium service for three months.  This will allow workers to find caregivers for children, elders, and pets.  While most services are not typically free, the portal gives caregivers the ability to waive their fees or reduce their rates.

The CARES Act allocated $3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and $750 million for Head Start.  These funds will support child care and early education to ensure that essential workers have access to child care, the child care workforce is protected and supported upon reopening, and there is a continuity of education for our youngest learners.