4/9/2020 From Laura Peter

Dear Colleagues,

In these extraordinary times, we recognize that employees may be having difficulty balancing their work and dependent care responsibilities. To help employees, the USPTO is plased to offer two new forms of leave. Both are discussed below. 

  1. Excused Absence for Dependent Care Leave

Consistent with recent Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidance, the USPTO is authorizing a limited amount of Excused Absence for Dependent Care Leave (EADC) to employees that face the following special circumstances:

  • An employee has a child or children who attend an elementary or secondary school that is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • An employee has a younger child or children who are not of school age, and normal childcare arrangements are not in effect due to the pandemic.
  • An employee has other family members (e.g., adult child or elderly parent with special needs) in the home who require care and supervision and other caregivers are not available due to the pandemic.

USPTO will provide a bank of up to 20 hours of EADC per bi-week to employees who have dependent care responsibilities only as necessary to fufill their 80 hour per bi-week work requirement. EADC is not available if the employee is claiming overtime, comp time, or non-IFP/IFS credit hours within the same bi-week. Part time employees can receive a pro-rated amount of EADC based on their bi-weekly scheduled work hours.

USPTO employees have been granted additional work scheduling flexbilities that should significantly reduce the need for EADC in many cases. For example, Patents IFP/IFS work hours have been temporarily expanded from 4:30 am to 11:59 pm to allow employees a broader period of time to work regular hours. EADC is designed to assist employees who are unable to meet their bi-weekly requirements even with these flexibilities. Pursuant to OPM's guidance, factors that everyone should consider in calculating how much EADC is needed are:

  • the age and care needs of the employee's child or children;
  • the needs of any adults in the home requiring care by the employee;
  • the number of children or other persons in the home requiring care/supervision;
  • the presence in the home of other healthy adult caregivers; and
  • the ability to perform work at times when direct care/supervision of a child or other person is not needed (e.g., while a child is sleeping). 

Prior to utilizing EADC, employees must reach out to their supervisor to notify them which of the special circumstance applies, the anticipated amount of EADC needed, and to discuss any specific scheduling or coverage requirements needed to fufill their part of the USPTO mission. 

EADC is available immediately, subject to the guidance above. Additionally, EADC is available for qualified employees who used annual leave, LWOP, or credit hours/comp time beginning March 23, 2020 due to dependent care issues (beginning March 19, 2020 for Denver Office employees and March 16, 2020 for San Jose Office employees). Please contact your supervisor to adjust your timesheet. Patent employees who claimed administrative leave per the message from Commissioner Hirshfeld on Sunday, March 29th may not claim more than 20 total hours of administrative leave for PALM pay-period 13.

EADC will be available now and through April 30, 2020. We will continue to monitor and evaluate this evovling situation and will reassess on an ongoing basis. 

EADC must be recorded under code ANTIME-0000-A00196. By claiming EADC in WebTA, employees are certifying that they are experiencing a hardship that meets one or more of the special circumstances identified above. 

2. Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

In addition to EADC, we want to share with you more information about the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, which is part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that became law on March 18, 2020, entitles eligible employees up to a total of 80 additional hours of paid sick leave (including for certain dependent care), prior to December 31, 2020, for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Depending on the situation, FFCRA Emergency Paid Sick Leave has total payments limits and wage rates that are different from normal leave and we are waiting for implementation guidance from the OPM, the Department of Labor, and the National Finance Center as we implement this leave option. 

Until further guidance is received from the National Finance Center (NFC), employees must code all emergency sick leave used under their regular personal sick leave account and manually track these hours. Employees who do not have enough personal sick leave hours available to cover their qualified emergency paid sick leave absence, can be advanced regular sick leave, up to 80 hours maximum of emergency sick leave.

At such time as the NFC provides coding guidance for the emergency sick leave category, employees will be provided guidance on how to code and submit corrected T&A records. Upon submission of the corrected T&A records, employees who are only eligible to receive 2/3 percent of their regular rate of pay but received 100 percent of their pay during periods of emergency sick leave will receive a bill for the difference from the NFC, which they will have full responsibility to repay.

Thank you for your continued vigilance and commitment as we continue to support our partners and stakeholders and do our part to stop the spread of the coronavirus. For more information on coronavirus, please visit: coronavirus.gov. Questions may be directed to COVID-19questions@uspto.gov

Laura Peter

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