Federal law expands sick time, FMLA for virus-related leave

Beginning April 1 and for the rest of 2020, Iowa State employees will have 80 hours of additional COVID-19 sick time off available for coronavirus-related absences and the option to use the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to receive partially paid leave to cover for their children’s closed schools or child care providers.

President Wendy Wintersteen announced the expanded leave options for employees in a March 31 campus message. The policy changes conform with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), a federal law enacted March 18. The two weeks of extra sick time, which are prorated for part-time employees, are in addition to and separate from existing accruals of sick time, vacation and emergency time off.

The pay rate for the COVID-19 sick time off depends on how it is used. COVID-19 sick time (self) is used when faculty or staff must miss work due to their own coronavirus symptoms, medical risks or required quarantine. It is paid at an employee's usual rate, up to $511 per day (which equates to an annual salary of about $133,000).

COVID-19 sick time (family) is used to care for a family member self-quarantined due to coronavirus concerns or for parents and guardians providing child care because a school or child care provider closed due to the pandemic. The pay rate in these situations is two-thirds of an employee's usual pay, capped at $200 per day (which equates to two-thirds of an annual salary of $78,000.)

Employees caring for their children missing school or child care due to virus-related closures also can elect to take up to 12 weeks of COVID-19 FMLA leave. FMLA leave is usually paid only with the applicable sick, vacation or emergency time off employees have accrued. When FMLA leave is taken for child care reasons under the FFCRA's temporary expansion, the final 10 weeks are partially paid without affecting employee time off balances (at two-thirds an employee’s usual rate, with the same $200 daily limit).

A flowchart produced by university human resources (UHR) can help employees figure out the leave options available in their specific situation. UHR established a website with COVID-19 resources and plans to post a recorded webinar about the changes to Learn@ISU later this week.

Employees with questions about the expanded time off and leave options can contact their HR service delivery team at hr_delivery@iastate.edu.