Benefits Q&A: Can Employees Use PTO for Post-Vacation Quarantine?
Q: I have an employee who traveled out of state during spring break. Our COVID-19 policy requires employees to self-quarantine after out-of-state travel. She asked to use PTO for the week because she is in quarantine after voluntarily traveling.
Will she need to use regular PTO — since she knew going into spring break that if she traveled she would have to quarantine later, and she doesn’t have COVID-19 symptoms or verified contact with an infected party? Or, would she qualify for FFCRA time off since we are requiring her to quarantine after traveling?
We have quite a few employees in this situation. We wanted to confirm how this should be handled. Any assistance, information, or guidance would be greatly appreciated!
A: First, I want to clarify that the requirement to provide paid leave under the FFCRA expired at the end of 2020. The only thing left is that if an employer voluntarily provides the paid leave (for the same reasons as if it were still required under the FFCRA), then the employer can claim a tax credit.
With that said, quarantines only fall under the FFCRA if they are undertaken due to a doctor’s orders. So, in the case of a quarantine that isn’t on doctor’s orders, you could voluntarily provide it as paid leave instead of making her use PTO, but you would not qualify for the tax credit if you do.
Finally, note that there is a new nondiscrimination provision that prohibits employers from offering FFCRA leave to some employees but not others. Specifically, tax credits will not be available to employers who offer FFCRA paid leave to:
- Highly compensated employees (but not lower-paid ones);
- Full-time employees but not part-timers; or
- Only those employees with a certain amount of tenure with the employer.
For this purpose, “highly compensated employees” is defined to include those who made $130,000+ in 2019 and five percent business owners.
This change is effective starting April 1, 2021.