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HR COVID-19 FAQs


Visit the UTSA Coronavirus Website for the latest information on campus operations, virtual instruction and preventative measures.

Emergency FMLA & Emergency Paid Sick Leave Eligibility 

UT FLEX Flexible Spending Accounts


UT Group Insurance Benefits Elections 



 

Emergency FMLA & Emergency Paid Sick Leave Eligibility

Laws covering sick leave and COVID-19

What is EFMLA?

The Emergency Family & Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) expands the coverage of the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to expand an employee’s FMLA entitlement to leave to include the employee’s inability to work (or telecommute) because the employee must care for a son or daughter under age 18 whose elementary or secondary school or place of care has been closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19. The EFMLA became effective April 1, 2020.

What is FMLA?

The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an existing federal law that entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Contact Leave Administration for eligibility determination. 

What is EPSL?

Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) became effective April 1, 2020. EPSL provides paid sick leave* (80 hours for full-time employees; prorated for part-time employees) when an employee is unable to work (or telecommute) due to a need for leave because the employee meets one or more of these conditions:

  • Subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19;
  • Under self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19 based on the advice of a health care provider;
  • Experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • Caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in subparagraph (1) or has been advised as described in paragraph (2);
  • Caring for a son or daughter of any age whose school or place of care has been closed or whose childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID– 19 precautions; or
  • Experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Health and Human Services secretary in consultation with the Treasury and Labor secretaries.

* Refer to the Emergency FMLA & Emergency Paid Sick Leave Eligibility Guidelines for duration and pay rate.

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Health benefits while using EPSL & EFMLA

If I elect to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, must my employer continue my health coverage?

If your employer provides group health coverage that you’ve elected, you are entitled to continued group health coverage during your expanded family and medical leave on the same terms as if you continued to work. If you are enrolled in family coverage, your employer must maintain coverage during your expanded family and medical leave. You generally must continue to make any normal contributions to the cost of your health coverage.

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Violations of policy

Can I be retaliated against for requesting to use either EPSL or EFMLA?

No. UTSA prohibits retaliation against any employee for engaging in any protected activity. If you believe you have been retaliated against for requesting or using EPSL or EFMLA, you are encouraged to report your concerns to the appropriate HR Business Partner or the Office of Institutional Compliance.

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EPSL & EFMLA eligibility and pay requirements

Are research and/or teaching assistants eligible for FFCRA leave if they are paid in a lump sum for the semester?

No. The FFCRA’s purpose is to allow people to take time off if they can’t work (or telecommute) and might not otherwise receive a paycheck. If employees received their full compensation for the semester, they would not have a reduction in pay even if they cannot do their jobs remotely.

Are new employees eligible for EPSL and EFMLA? 

To be eligible under EPSL, an employee must have been employed only one (1) day. To be eligible under EFMLA, an employee must have been employed at least 30 days. Refer to the EFMLA and EPSL eligibility guidelines for detailed eligibility information or contact an HR representative.

Are emergency essential employees (e.g., first responders) eligible for EPSL and EFMLA?

Due to the ongoing capacity challenges facing our community, UTSA has made the difficult decision to not extend these leave benefits to certain first responders (police officer, EMT). The exemption is expressly authorized by the new law. While we believe it is critical to keep our entire workforce families safe, we must also continue to deliver vital services to our community.

If you are a first responder and wish to be considered as an exception to the first responder exclusion rule, please direct your request to an HR representative. Limited exceptions will be granted only in extreme circumstances.

Are there any limits to the amount an employee can be paid under either EPSL or EFMLA? 

Yes. Review the EFMLA and EPSL eligibility guidelines for more information. If you have additional questions, contact an HR representative.

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Existing UTSA leave and time-off policies

Is the 80 hours of paid sick leave in addition to accrued vacation or sick time already offered? 

Yes. The EPSLA specifically states that an employee “may first use” the paid sick time for COVID-19 reasons, and an employer “may not” require them to use other leave first [Sec. 5102(e)].

Can I use earned state compensatory time in lieu of EPSL?

An employee may choose to request sick time off and use earned state compensatory time if they are not requesting EPSL.

Can an employee donate their entitled 80 hours to another employee who has exhausted their EPSL?

No, time allocated under EPSL cannot be donated. UTSA's sick leave pool (where employees may donate hours) is a separate program from EPSL.  

Are employees still able to donate time to the sick leave pool?

Yes; however, UTSA’s sick leave pool is a distinct program from EPSL and EFMLA.  For more information regarding donation of sick leave, including eligibility and state tax requirements, see UTSA’s Handbook of Operating Procedures, Chapter 4.20.

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Duration of leave under EFMLA or EPSL

Is the 12 weeks EFMLA in addition to FMLA, for a total of 24 weeks?  

No. EFMLA only expands the eligibility under FMLA. See “What is EFMLA?” under Laws Covering Sick Leave and COVID-19.

I have an employee who took 12 weeks of FMLA leave this year. Are they eligible for an additional 12 weeks of FMLA to stay home with their children? 

No. The act does not expand an eligible employee’s FMLA leave entitlement to greater than 12 weeks during any 12-month period. Accordingly, an employee who has otherwise exhausted FMLA leave during the 12-month period is not entitled to an additional 12 weeks of leave under EFMLA. That said, employees are eligible for two weeks of Emergency Paid Sick Leave under the act, as well as any other available leave under state and local laws or company policies. See UTSA’s Handbook of Operating Procedures, Chapter 4.20.

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Remote (telecommuting) workers

Are employees who work remotely entitled to use either EPSL or EFMLA? 

Yes. the EFMLA and EPSL eligibility guidelines.

If I am home with my child because his or her school or place of care is closed or my childcare provider is unavailable, am I entitled to paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, or both? How do they interact?

You may be eligible for both types of leave, for a total of 12 weeks of paid leave. You may take both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 related reasons. The EPSL act provides for an initial two weeks of paid leave. This period covers the first 10 workdays of expanded family and medical leave, which are otherwise unpaid under the EFMLA unless you elect to use existing vacation, personal or sick leave under your employer’s policy. After the first 10 workdays have elapsed, you will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would have been scheduled to work in the subsequent 10 weeks under the EFMLA. Note that you can only receive the additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave under the EFMLA for leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed or child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 related reasons.

If I am unable to telecommute, am I entitled to paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

If your position allows telecommuting and you are unable to perform those tasks or work the required hours because of one of the qualifying reasons for paid sick leave, then you are entitled to take paid sick leave. Similarly, if you are unable to perform those telecommuting tasks or work the required hours because you need to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed or child care provider is unavailable because of COVID-19 related reasons, then you are entitled to take expanded family and medical leave. To the extent you can telecommute while caring for your child, paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave is not available.

May I take my expanded family and medical leave intermittently while my child’s school or place of care is closed or childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 related reasons, if I am not telecommuting?

Yes, but only with your employer’s permission. Intermittent expanded family and medical leave should be permitted only when you and your employer agree upon such a schedule. For example, if your employer and you agree, you may work Tuesdays and Thursdays, but take expanded family and medical leave on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while your child is at home because your child’s school or place of care is closed or child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 related reasons for the duration of your leave. Contact Leave Administration for more details.


Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Can an employee file for unemployment benefits if he or she is told to go home for medical reasons?

According to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), if an employee is receiving paid leave benefits (e.g., EPSL), no, he or she may not draw unemployment benefits. While on paid medical leave, the employee would not be considered unemployed under TWC laws and would not be able to claim unemployment insurance benefits. Once the paid leave runs out, the employee could file unemployment claims. Contact the Texas Workforce Commission for additional details.

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UT FLEX Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)

Health Care Reimbursement Account (HCRA)

If I’m unable to spend my HCRA election because my doctor or dentist office is temporarily closed to patients and/or I had to cancel my procedure or surgery, can I get a refund on my remaining HCRA balance at the end of the year?

No. At this time, refunds of unspent Flexible Spending Account (FSA) balances are not authorized. FSA regulations are administered by the IRS and any changes or permissions must be determined by that agency. Note that the HCRA grace period extends to Nov. 15, 2020, to use your current year HCRA funds. You can account for this year’s remaining balance when determining how much to elect for the next plan year during the upcoming July annual enrollment period.

With the recent change to make over-the-counter (OTC) products available without a prescription, can I now add a HCRA account?

No. The IRS modification to allow OTC items to be purchased without a prescription is not considered a material change to the offering that would enable new enrollment into the program.

With the recent changes to the benefits plan as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, can I add a HCRA account?

No. The pandemic is not in itself a qualifying status change that would allow for any HCRA changes at this time. Additionally, our medical plan has changed so that there will be even fewer or zero out-of-pocket costs for services related to COVID-19, including testing through treatment. Adding or increasing HCRA participation would not be consistent with a decrease in cost.

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UT FLEX Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)

Dependent Care Reimbursement Account (DCRA)

Can I cancel my DCRA if my child’s daycare or after school care option has closed?

Yes. Based on the significant change in cost (even to $0.00 if closed), members are permitted to cancel their current DCRA election.

Can I cancel my DCRA if my child’s summer camp is cancelled or is expected to be cancelled?

Yes. Due to the significant change in cost based on information provided by the summer camp, members are permitted to cancel their current DCRA election.

If I am no longer making DCRA contributions and I incur additional DCRA claims through Aug. 31, 2020, can I still submit those as eligible for reimbursement?

Yes. You can continue to incur claims for eligible DCRA expenses through Aug. 31, 2020, to exhaust any remaining DCRA funds. The deadline to submit claims remains Nov. 30, 2020.

Can I get a refund if I have a remaining DCRA balance at the end of the year due to my child’s daycare, after school care or summer camp closing?

At this time, no. The IRS would have to change current regulations in order to allow refunds of remaining DCRA funds.

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UT Group Insurance Benefits Elections

Dental and Vision Insurance

With dental and vision provider offices closed, I’m paying for coverage I am unable to access. Can I cancel my election?

No. Insurance remains available for emergency needs at this time, and can be used for standard covered services as soon as offices reopen.

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May 2020