Accessing leave during COVID-19
What leaves can I access if I need them?
King County offers a variety of leaves to help employees support our community and take care of themselves and their families during the COVID-19 outbreak. Learn more about available leaves for COVID-19-related issues and their eligibility criteria on this webpage. There is also more information about other types of leaves on the Employee Benefits website.
What leaves are available?
Up to 12 weeks of Emergency Family and Medical Leave to care for a child.
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) is an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); therefore, the 12-week total annual entitlement for FMLA still applies.
- Employees who need to care for a child under the age of 18 or an older child incapable of self-care due to a mental or physical disability due to closure of the child’s school or childcare facility and are unable to telecommute can use EPSLA (see below).
- Employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of protected EFMLEA reduced by any FMLA used in the prior 12 months, if they have worked for the County for at least 30 days.
- This includes short-term temporary employees and paid interns.
- The first 10 days of EFMLEA are unpaid; however, the employee may use any other available paid leave (including the EPSLA discussed below).
- After the first 10 days, eligible employees are entitled to two-thirds of their regular rate of pay during the leave, up to a maximum of $200/day and $10,000 total.
- Pay is calculated based on the number of hours the employee would otherwise be scheduled to work. For employees with varied schedules, the hours are determined based on the average number of hours scheduled over the 6-month period ending on the date on which the leave starts, including any leave hours; or based on a reasonable expectation at the time of hiring.
- Employees may use EFMLEA intermittently, if approved by their department.
- KCFML entitles eligible employees who have worked for the County for a least a year and for the required number of hours to 18 weeks of leave for events that are covered by FMLA; however, weeks 13 - 18 under KCFML would be unpaid, unless an employee used leave accruals.
Up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) provides full-time employees up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave for six qualifying reasons. Part-time employees are eligible for a prorated amount based on their average hours worked over a two-week period. EPSLA is immediately available to employees who meet federal eligibility criteria. You do not need to exhaust your accrued leave to access EPSLA, which is available beginning April 1, 2020 and expires on July 5, 2021. Employees are eligible for EPSLA if they are unable to work (either at home or at the worksite) and:
- Are subject to a local, state or federal quarantine order related to COVID-19;
- A quarantine order includes Governor Inslee’s “stay home, stay safe” order; however, because the Governor’s order allows King County employees to perform work, either at work or via telecommuting, no King County employee qualifies for EPSLA for reason #1.
- Have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- Are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis;
- Are caring for an individual who is self-isolating for one of the reasons described in (1) or (2) above. A qualifying “individual” is an employee’s immediate family member, a person who lives in the employee’s home, or a person with whom the employee has a relationship with that creates an expectation that the employee would care for that person while quarantined;
- Are caring for their child under the age of 18 whose school has been closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency related to COVID-19; or
- Are experiencing any other “substantially similar condition” specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
For all six reasons above, the County will be more generous than required under federal law and pay full-time employees up to 80 hours of EPSLA in the same way that employees are currently paid when they use their sick leave. Part-time employees are eligible for a prorated amount based on their average hours worked over a two-week period.
Employees may use EPSLA intermittently, if approved by their department, if they are either telecommuting, or if they need time off to care for a child (see reason #5 above).
King County has entered into Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) with many of its unions, listed here, to provide eligible full-time employees up to 80 hours of PAL (prorated for part-time employees) for the following COVID-19-related illnesses and reasons:
- Employees who are sick with COVID-19 or taking care of eligible family members with COVID-19;
- Employees who are sick with COVID-19 symptoms and must stay home;
- Employees who are not high risk, but are directed by a Health Officer or qualified medical professional to quarantine because of potential exposure to COVID-19 and who cannot telecommute;
- Employees who are home because their child’s school or childcare facility is closed and who are unable to work or telecommute; and
- Employees who fall into CDC high risk (see below) categories who cannot telecommute and do not want to come into the workplace.
King County is also offering PAL to non-represented employees. Short-term temporary employees and interns are not eligible.
CDC Definition of High Risk
- People 65 and older;
- People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
- People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- People who have serious heart conditions
- People who are immunocompromised
- Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
- People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
- People with diabetes
- People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
- People with liver disease
In order to maintain essential services, supervisor approval must be received in order to take PAL. Supervisors will make decisions based on the eligibility criteria listed above, operational need and business continuity, in addition to employee designations as First Responder or Mission Critical.
Supervisor Approval Process for PAL:
Upon receipt of an employee’s request for PAL, the supervisor will assess staffing levels based upon available staff and operational need, as follows:
- For eligibility criteria 1 and 2, the supervisor shall grant the leave.
- For eligibility criteria 3, the supervisor will approve the request, if it does not pose operational hardship. Where approving the employee's request for eligibility criterion 3 would pose operational hardship, HR will confer with the Health Officer or medical professional who directed the quarantine.
- For eligibility criteria 4 or 5, the leave will be granted if it does not pose operational hardship based on the demands of operations and the available staffing (taking into account employees currently on leave and employees previously authorized to take leave). If approving the leave would cause operational hardship, the manager will attempt to accommodate the leave as soon as possible relative to when the request was made. The request will be given priority over requests for vacation leave.
Provides up to a maximum of 80 hours of paid administrative leave (prorated for less than 40 hour schedules) for certain COVID related reasons. This leave is available to non-represented employees and for members of unions which have signed the Memorandum of Agreement. To request paid administrative leave for COVID related reasons, use the Paid Administrative Leave – COVID form.
Where permitted, an employee may adjust the time period in which they complete each day’s required work hours to help them better manage the competing demands on their time. For example, instead of a standard 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule, an employee may be permitted to adjust their schedule to 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. five days a week. Employees may also be permitted to adjust their schedule to work a different number of hours on each day of the week as long as they complete their regular 35- or 40-hour work week.
This option will not be appropriate for every employee or every function, and will require the approval of an employee’s supervisor. Any change to the schedule of an employee represented by a labor organization must be consistent with the relevant collective bargaining agreement.
If an employee would like to adjust their hours, they are encouraged to have this discussion with their supervisor. A Pandemic Alternative Work Arrangements for Parents Form must be completed and approved by the employee’s supervisor prior to beginning an adjusted schedule. After an employee begins an adjusted schedule, supervisors should conduct periodic reviews with the employee to evaluate the success of the arrangement.
Supervisors: Please review this checklist when reviewing requests for Pandemic Alternative Work Arrangements.
The announcement that most schools will start remotely in fall of 2020 creates additional challenges for working parents, as does caring for elderly or sick family members. Please see this guide for leave and scheduling options if you have school-aged or younger children at home whose school or childcare has closed because of COVID-19. Please work with your supervisor and seek approval when pursuing the options below, and consult your HR Representative for more details.
COVID-19 Paid Leave is no longer available, as it was only provided on an as-needed basis through April 24, 2020.