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For employers, there’s a lot up in the air right now as it concerns COVID-19 and human resources. Whether you’re an essential business that’s stayed open, have transitioned to remote work or have furloughed workers during the stay-at-home order, employee safety is a top priority. So, what do you say when an employee comes to you and asks to self-quarantine using FMLA?
Employees may have many reasons for choosing to self-isolate during the pandemic. They may be immunocompromised or have had recent exposure to someone with the virus. Or, they may be a single parent with no means of child care. In some cases, they may be the primary caregiver for someone who has COVID-19 or a chronic illness, who is unable to care for themselves.
Whatever the reason for requesting FMLA to self-quarantine, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) has provided clear guidelines on who’s eligible for FMLA and what the difference is between FMLA and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
FMLA vs. FFCRAMost employees are familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year to tend to serious health conditions (themselves or an immediate family member). Unfortunately, proactive action against illness isn’t covered by FMLA, which means employees can’t use FMLA to self-quarantine.
That said, FMLA and FFCRA both have accommodations for employees dealing with extenuating circumstances caused by the pandemic. For instance, employees can take FMLA to care for a family member who has a positive diagnosis for COVID-19.
There are also child care provisions as part of FFCRA, which provides expanded family and medical leave for reasons specific to COVID-19. Under FFCRA, employees are eligible for the following:
How to handle self-quarantine requests?
If an employee comes to you and requests FMLA to self-quarantine, it’s important to talk with them about their options. It becomes a matter of specifics. Work with them to assess their options as it relates to their reason for requesting a leave of absence.
If your employee does qualify for FMLA, act with compassion and assist them however you can in processing paperwork. For cases falling under FFCRA, work to determine the duration of leave and the rate of pay according to guidelines. Document everything accordingly and work to be as thorough as possible.
Times may be uncertain, which makes it even more important for HR professionals to be a beacon of information and assistance to employees—especially when it concerns a leave of absence. Can Employees Use FMLA to Self-Quarantine During COVID-19?