4 Coronavirus-Related Leave Categories You Need to Know About

Categories: The Insider, Coronavirus

More than 1 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19. You are a federal employee and have been directed to stay home due to the pandemic. What type of leave is available to you? Well, that depends on your circumstances and your agency’s discretion. 

When dealing with leave due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may encounter the following four types of leave:  

1. Emergency paid sick leave under the Families First Act 

Under the Families First Act, which was enacted on March 18, 2020, agencies are required to provide employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave if they are not able to work or telework because they:  

  • are under quarantine as a result of a government order; 
  • have been advised to quarantine by a health care professional;  
  • have COVID-19 symptoms;  
  • must take care of an individual who has been advised by a health care professional to quarantine;  
  • are caring for a child whose school or childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19;  
  • are facing a similar situation as determined by the Health and Human Services secretary, who has the authority to expand eligibility. 

Leave granted for any one of the first three reasons is paid at 100% of salary, up to $551 a day. Leave granted for the fourth, fifth, or sixth reason is capped at 66% of salary, up to $200 a day.  

Most federal employees are eligible for this new leave category, but agencies may exempt health care professionals or emergency responders from coverage. 

2. Weather and safety leave (WS) 

Agencies have broad authority to provide weather and safety leave to address a variety of circumstances. Agencies may provide weather and safety leave for most COVID-19 related situations, including when an employee has COVID-19 symptoms, has been exposed to the virus, or cannot safely travel to their duty station. Weather and safety leave, however, is discretionary and agencies in most cases are not required to provide it. 

3. Administrative leave 

An agency has authority to place employees on administrative leave at the agency’s discretion. An agency may place an employee on administrative leave when ordering that employee to stay at home due to COVID-19. 

4. Enforced leave (your own accrued leave or leave without pay) 

An agency likely has the authority to place an employee on enforced leave due to coronavirus. If an employee is placed on enforced leave, they are either required to use their own accrued leave, or are placed on leave without pay. If an employee is placed on enforced leave for more than 14 days, the employee may be able to appeal the agency’s action to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Enforced leave for 14 days or less may still be appealable through a grievance procedure. If placed on enforced leave, an employee should consult with their local immediately. 

Which one should you seek?  

  • If you are directed to remain home due to the pandemic and are unable to telework, you may request paid leave under the Families First Act if your agency has not otherwise provided you with paid leave.  
  • If you’re unable to telework and are not eligible for Families First Act leave, you may request administrative leave or weather and safety leave.  
  • If your agency places you on enforced leave, consult with your union to discuss the possibility of appealing the agency’s action. 

Disclaimer: This guidance is intended for AFGE use and is informational only. This guidance is not legal advice, nor does it address specific case facts. This guidance is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. AFGE is not responsible for any errors or omissions in this guidance or any accompanying materials, as controlling law is always subject to interpretation and/or change.  


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