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On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA, herein referred to as Families First Act) was signed into law.  The Families First Act requires agencies to provide their federal employees with up to an additional 80 hours of paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19.  These 80 hours of Families First Act sick leave are in addition to employees’ regularly earned sick leave.  The Families First Act sick leave is available for use from April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), who is the ATAAPS systems owner, is working to develop secondary leave codes specific to the Families First Act sick leave.  DFAS is estimating that it may take up to eight weeks for the secondary leave codes to become available.  If employees need to use Families First Act sick leave prior to the secondary leave codes being available in ATAAPS, they should request leave using the code “LV” (Leave Excused).  Once the codes are available in ATAAPS, revisions to the timecard can be made to add the secondary leave codes related to the Families First Act sick leave. 

Please note that once these retroactive corrections are made, it may generate an indebtedness based on the type of scenario as outlined below.  Employees and leave approving officials must record the dates and reason for the Families First Act sick leave so that the record can be revised.  If an indebtedness occurs, please be aware that waivers to the debt will not granted, no debt letters will be mailed, and 15 percent of the employee’s net disposable income will be deducted until the debt is repaid.  The Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (HC), in consultation with the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (CF), will issue ATAAPS coding instructions to Resources Managers as soon as codes are available in the system.

Eligibility and Qualifying Events

The number of Families First Act sick leave hours provided to an employee depends on the employee’s work schedule (i.e., full, part-time). Under the Families First Act, paid sick leave is available if the employee is unable to work or telework because the employee:

1.Is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;

2.Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;

3.Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;

4.Is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2); or

5.Is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.

There is an additional qualifying event that allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury, to expand this flexibility to a substantially similar condition to COVID-19.  If this occurs, additional guidance will be provided.  The table below provides a summary of key provisions of the Families First Act available to federal employees:

 

If

On

And covered by

Then

You are a  federal employee regardless of the appointment type (e.g., competitive, excepted service)

a full-time work schedule

COVID-19 Events 1, 2, and 3

You can request up to 80 hours of paid Families First Act sick leave (paid at 100% up to $511 daily and $5,110 total)

 

Note: Please check your LES as your daily rate of pay may be more than the maximum allowable amount. If this is the case, you will be paid less than 100%.

 

a part-time work schedule

COVID-19 Events 1, 2, and 3

You can request paid Families First Act sick leave for the number of hours that you normally work over a two-week period.

You are a  federal employee regardless of the appointment type (e.g., competitive, excepted service)

a full-time work schedule

COVID-19 Events 4 and 5

You will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the two week period up to $200 daily and $2,000 total

 

Note: This may translate to less than 2/3 of your regular rate of pay

 

a part-time work schedule

COVID-19 Events 4 and 5

You will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the two week equivalent.

 

What should employees know?

Employees should consider utilizing the Families First Act sick leave prior to using their regular leave depending on their personal leave balance and regular rate of pay. Under the Families First Act, employees are entitled to receive up to 80 hours of paid leave, however, like any other leave request, employees must submit a leave request through ATAAPS.  The 80 hours of Families First Act sick leave may only be used once. In the meantime, employees should provide advance notice to their supervisor so that alternate work arrangements can be made.

Once the 80 hours of Families First Act sick leave are depleted, employees will not be entitled to additional paid leave under the Families First Act.  However, employees can utilize their regular leave if it continues to be based on one of the above COVID-19 events.  Employees cannot use the Families First Act sick leave hours outside of the above listed qualifying events. The Families First Act sick leave can be used incrementally until the 80 hours of leave is depleted. It is important to note that the Families First Act sick leave hours are available only during the period of April 1 through December 31, 2020, and the hours will not be rolled over to the next leave year.

What should supervisors know?

Supervisors are responsible for their employees’ time and attendance. Families First Act sick leave requests need to be reviewed and approved like any other leave request. In order to prevent early return to work by ill employees who are mission essential and whose duties cannot be performed remotely, which could enhance transmission, and to avoid overburdening local health providers, supervisors may at their discretion waive the requirement for employees to provide a medical note if absent from work more than 3 days.  Supervisors may consider an employee’s self-certification as administratively acceptable evidence for the absence, regardless of the duration of the absence.  Therefore, supervisors should exercise flexibility and good judgement in approving this leave. 

Depending on the employee’s work schedule, a maximum of 80 hours of Families First Act sick leave can be used and those hours must be tracked in ATAAPS.  If at any time, a supervisor believes that there is leave abuse, please consult with an employee relations specialist. Although employees are entitled to this type of sick leave, supervisors have a responsibility to ensure its appropriate usage.

Families First Act Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Department of Labor has posted an overview for federal employees (best viewed in Chrome): https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Federal.pdf.  For guidance on ATAAPS coding, employees and supervisors should consult with their office’s time keeper. 

1.Can I split the hours used or do I need to use the 80 hours of Families First Act sick leave all at one time?

Federal employees have the discretion on the amount of leave used. You can use the 80 hours over a continuous two week period or apply it incrementally from April 1 through December 31, 2020. 

2.If I run out of the 80 hours of Families First Act sick leave, can I use my regular leave?

Yes. Under Families First Act, federal employees are entitled to 80 hours of COVID-19 sick leave. You will need to use other leave (including sick leave and annual leave) if you need to go beyond the 80 hours duration.

3.Am I required to use the 80 hours of Families First Act sick leave first before I can use my regular sick leave?

No, it is not required. However, it is encouraged that you consider utilizing the Families First Act sick leave hours for COVID-19 events prior to using your own personal leave. When making the determination, you should consider your current leave balance and your regular rate of pay. The Families First Act was created to provide relief during this time, and the available unused leave expires at the end of the calendar year.

4.I heard under the Families First Act that I may also be eligible for 10 weeks of partially paid leave. Is that true?

No. The addition of 10 weeks of partially paid leave is covered in Division C of the Families First Act (Public Law 116-127 effective March 18, 2020).  This section does not apply to DOE federal employees.

5.If I am home with my child because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, do I get paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, or both—how do they interact?

Under the Families First Act, federal employees are eligible to receive 80 hours of sick leave paid at 2/3 of their regular rate of pay to care for children at home due to school closures and unavailability of childcare due to COVID-19 reasons. In addition, you may request to take other forms of leave, including sick leave and annual leave, to care for children at home.

6.What happens if I need to use the Families First sick leave prior to the DFAS codes being available in ATAAPS?

You should take “LV” (Excused Leave) for the required duration.  When the secondary leave codes become available in the system from DFAS, you will need to work with your Time and Attendance Coordinator to revise the timecard.  Depending on the reason you took the Families First Act sick leave, the retroactive change may result in a debt that you will have to repay.

For example, if you took the Families First Act sick leave to care for your dependent child(s), then it will only cover 2/3 of your rate of pay with a maximum of $200 a day or $2,000 total.  Because your original leave was paid at a full 100 percent of your regular rate of pay, a debt has occurred.  As a result, DFAS will not issue an indebtedness letter but will automatically start deducting 15% of your net disposable income in your future Leave and Earnings Statements until the debt is repaid.