Posted 2 years ago - by

What You Need to Know about Paying Quarantined Employees

The paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) went into effect on April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Various states and counties have also introduced their own regulations on the local level, and it is advised you cross reference with those as well.

The FFCRA contains two key provisions for employers: (1) the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and (2) the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA).

EPSLA and EFMLEA coverage

Under the two provisions, the following individuals are entitled to paid leave for reasons related to COVID-19:

  • Employees on leave
  • Temporary employees jointly employed by another employer
  • Day laborers supplied by a temporary agency

Public and private employers with fewer than 500 employees (all working in the United States, including the District of Columbia and U.S. territories) must provide the following:

  • Up to 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay for an employee who is unable to work/telework due to either of these reasons:
    • He/she is quarantined under a government order or the advice of a health care provider.
    • He/she experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • Up to 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay for an employee who is unable to work/telework due to either of these reasons:
    • They need to care for an individual who is quarantined under a government order or the advice of a health care provider.
    • They need to care for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable for COVID-19-related reasons.
  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay when an employee is unable to work/telework because they need to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Businesses will be repaid for the expenses to cover FFCRA leaves through federal tax credits.


Exemption for small businesses

Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from providing leave under both FFCRA provisions. If doing so, even with the tax credit, would jeopardize the viability of the business as an ongoing concern.

They must document the process by which they determined to opt for the small business exemption and must keep supporting records on file for 4 years, without necessarily providing this documentation to the DOL.


Voluntary payment during employer-imposed quarantine

Businesses that are not subject to the FFCRA because of their size or owing to other factors may still choose to compensate quarantined employees. However, they must carefully weigh the pros of doing so against the cons. These include the following:


  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee loyalty and retention
  • Prevention of the potential spread of the virus through contact with the employee who reports to work despite having COVID-19–related symptoms


  • Costs to the company
  • Possible abuse by employees who knowingly travel or expose themselves to a COVID-19 hot spot to avail of the EPSLA leave

Employers opting to pay quarantined workers must limit their liability by clarifying key points such as the following:

  • Should quarantined employees continue to accrue vacation time?
  • Should quarantined employees receive full or partial wages?

Employers who choose to pay quarantined employees at less than their regular rate must comply with minimum-wage rules and threshold-pay requirements for exemption.

Do you need expert help with sorting out COVID-19–related compensation?

Contact Payroll Systems. We offer constant human support in tandem with integrated automated payroll software to make sure you stay on top of all things payroll and HR.

Learn more about our easily scalable solutions—from paperless new employee onboarding, paperless benefit enrollment, timekeeping systems with companion mobile app, physical clocks, and customized job costing and labor distribution reporting.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.