COVID back in February? Can you submit a FFCRA request?

Q:  I think I had COVID back in February, 2020.  I stayed home for a few days and felt better.  I took 3 PTO days.  Should I now be reimbursed for my PTO days and then contact my employer about the sick time benefits available under the new 2020 FFCRA law.  I assume this is permissible.  Please advise.

A: I am sorry you were sick back in February, 2020.  I am glad that you had PTO time available to you, because not every employee has PTO as a benefit.

I am afraid that you would not be eligible for any benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  The Act was signed into law on March 18, 2020 but the benefits are only available between April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.  The Act is not applicable to all employers, so employees should contact their employer to better understand if the employer is required to comply with the Act.  Additionally, these benefits are not retroactive prior to April 1, 2020.  If your COVID symptoms had occurred on April 1, 2020 (or later), you would have been required to notify your employer of your reason for the leave and the name of the health care provider who advised you to quarantine.  There also may have been a discussion about telework, if you were able to telework (depending upon your health and your role).  Not all roles can be accomplished through a telework arrangement.

The Act does provide for sick time for up to two weeks (or 80 hours).  For part-timers, it is the equivalent of the regularly scheduled workweek.

Though the Act covers a number of reasons, for your own COVID-19 symptoms specifically, you would have been required to be directed by a health care provider to quarantine and/or seek a medical diagnosis.  In many instances, earlier this year, health care providers were providing telehealth appointments but tests were still difficult to schedule for many symptomatic people.

Now with COVID-19 numbers climbing, there are concerns about flu season, COVID symptoms and schools in session.  At as today’s date (November 2, 2020), there is no firm guidance on whether these benefits will be extended into 2021.  These benefits are scheduled to expire on December 31, 2020.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.