Women on the Front Lines

Know Your Rights: Get the Facts About Paid Leave

Equity, Healthcare, Impact Lab, Public Policy, Women on the Front Lines


TIME'S UP and A Better Balance Present: Webinar on Your Right to Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family and Medical Leave Amidst COVID-19

The need for permanent paid sick days and paid family and medical leave has never been more urgent. Too many workers can’t take paid time off if they are sick or need to care for family members. And women and people of color are at the front lines of this crisis, hit the hardest by these systemic failures.

During this unprecedented moment, we must not only sound the alarm, but also make lasting progress for workers right now and in the future.

Take action with TIME’S UP Now to urge your representatives to support permanent paid leave for all workers and learn more about your rights under new and existing paid leave laws below.

What is the difference between paid sick days and paid family and medical leave?

Paid sick leave is short-term leave, usually taken to recover from a short-term illness (like the flu); care for a sick family member; or seek preventative care (i.e. well baby visits, annual physicals). Paid sick days allow workers to save up and use time away from work to attend to their and their family’s health.

Paid Family and Medical Leave is longer-term (usually weeks or months) leave that is typically used to undergo medical treatment or recover from a serious illness; bond with a new child (newborn, foster, adopted); care for a family member with a serious illness; or for reasons having to do with family members in the military.

What should I know about paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on March 18, 2020. Under this new law, employers with less than 500 employees are required to provide up to 80 hours or 10 days of paid sick leave at their regular pay rate – but only if employees are unable to work because they’re subject to quarantine, experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, caring for someone who is affected by the virus and/or have children in schools that have closed. However, employers with fewer than 50 employees could be exempted from the law. Further, health care providers and emergency responders are not eligible for paid sick leave under the law.

The legislation also provides up to three months of paid family and medical leave for help with childcare during this crisis. This extended paid leave is provided to employees who are unable to work or telework to provide child care and does not cover personal illness.

So: if you’re currently quarantining or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms — or caring for someone who is — and you can’t work from home, then you’re eligible for paid time off from your employer at your regular pay rate. Same goes for if your kids are home from school and you’re on the hook for childcare.

Do I have access to paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave under the new federal law?

Employees who meet the criteria above should have access to paid sick days. In addition, self-employed individuals, including independent contractors like Uber drivers or Instacart shoppers, who pay their taxes can claim equivalent paid sick time as a tax credit.

However, there are many exceptions. The law carved out large businesses with more than 500 employees. In addition, if you work for a small business — an employer with fewer than 50 employees — your employer can be exempted. Similarly, health care providers and emergency responders are not eligible. And extended paid leave is only available if you rely on a school or day care to care for your child — and that facility has been shut down because of coronavirus.

Employees, you can learn more about your rights here.

Employers, you can learn more about your rights and responsibilities here.

Small business owners and independent contractors, you can learn more about paid leave tax credits here.

What about state and local paid leave laws?

Over the past several years, dozens of jurisdictions — including states, cities, and counties — have put paid sick time laws on the books. If your state has a more expansive law than the federal law, your employer must follow your state’s laws. Many employers also offer paid leave, but they vary from place to place — so it’s important to talk to your supervisor or human resources department about what specific protections they provide.

If you live in Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine (takes effect in 2021), Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, your state has a paid sick leave law. New York also recently enacted an emergency paid sick leave law in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Learn more about your state’s paid sick leave laws here.

Several counties and cities have also enacted laws or ordinances that require paid sick leave. More specific information can be found here.

What if I’ve used up all my paid sick days?

You may also be eligible for up to 10 additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at two-thirds of your usual pay – but only if you are unable to work because you need to care for a child whose school or childcare has closed due to the coronavirus. This new law does not provide extended paid leave for personal or family illness related to COVID-19.

What if I was laid off from my job due to the coronavirus?

If you are unemployed, partly employed, or cannot work for a variety of coronavirus-related reasons, you have options.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act took effect on March 27, 2020. The CARES Act increased unemployment insurance benefits to $600 per week for eligible employees through July 31, 2020. The law also allows states to extend regular unemployment benefits by an additional 13 weeks. How much you receive in unemployment benefits depends on your state. Check here or your state’s unemployment insurance website for the latest updates.

The new law also provides economic relief to Americans earning $99,000 or less by providing direct payments of up to $1,200 to individuals and an additional $500 per child.

What if my workplace retaliates against me if I take leave?

That’s illegal. If you are eligible for paid leave, you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor here. If your state has a paid leave law, you can also file a claim with your state’s labor department or attorney general.

You can also get help through the National Women’s Law Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity, which is offering to connect workers to attorneys for a first free consultation related to problems accessing paid sick days and paid leave provided by the Families First Recovery Coronavirus Act (FFCRA). You can submit a request for legal help by filling out the form available here in English or Spanish. If you need access in other languages or need an accommodation because of a disability, contact the Legal Network at legalnetwork@nwlc.org or at 202.319.3053.

I have additional questions. Where can I go for answers?

If you have additional questions about emergency paid sick days and paid leave for child care and coronavirus, check out the National Partnership for Women & Families’ Fact Sheet. You can also call A Better Balance’s workplace rights hotline. More information about the hotline can be found here.