COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave is Extended
On September 29, 2021, the Massachusetts Legislature extended the COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act until April 1, 2022, or until the $75 million program fund is expended, whichever occurs first. The Act had been set to expire on September 30, 2021. The Legislature also amended the Act to allow an employee time off from work to care for a family member who needs to obtain or recover from the COVID-19 vaccine. Considering this extension and amendment, employers should be sure to review the following information about the Act.
The Act applies to all public and private employers in Massachusetts. Employers must provide up to 40 hours of paid leave for their Massachusetts-based employees for the time period May 28, 2021- April 1, 2022. Employees who have exhausted their COVID-related federal leave before May 28, can use up to another 40 hours. However, if their federal leave was not exhausted by that date, the employer can require that the state and federal leave run concurrently.
Employers cannot mandate that an employee use other forms of paid time off before using the leave time provided under the Act, but employees may choose to supplement their leave time with other forms of paid leave.
Employees can use leave-time under the Act if they are absent from and unable to work due to the following reasons:
The employee’s own need to self-isolate and care for oneself because of a COVID-19 diagnosis; to seek or obtain a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; or to obtain or recover from a COVID-19 vaccination.
The employee’s need to care for a family member who needs to self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis; to seek or obtain a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; or to obtain or recover from a COVID-19 vaccination.
The employee’s need to comply with a quarantine order or similar determination regarding the employee by a government official, healthcare authority, employer, or healthcare provider.
The employee’s need to care for a family member who must comply with a quarantine order or similar determination regarding the employee by a government official, healthcare authority, employer, or healthcare provider.
The employee’s inability to telework due to COVID-19 symptoms.
A “family member” is defined as the employee’s spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, a parent of the spouse or domestic partner of the employee, or a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor.
Employers are required to provide notice of the Act to their employees. The notice is available here. The notice requirement is satisfied by posting a copy of the notice at the workplace or, if the workforce or employees are working remotely, by posting a copy of the notice on the intranet or via email.
Employees entitled to receive up to 40 hours of leave, depending on the number of hours they regularly work in a week. The maximum amount that an employer is required to pay per employee is $850 inclusive of costs of benefits. Employers can seek reimbursement from the Commonwealth for the costs of providing employees with leave under the Act. The application for reimbursement is available here. Employers cannot seek reimbursement for employees’ leave taken prior to May 28, 2021.
Employers cannot interfere with their employees’ ability to use the leave under the Act or retaliate against employees for exercising their rights, nor can they take any adverse action against employees because they support the exercise of rights of other employees. Additionally, while employees are on-leave, employer must provide them with the same benefits as when they are working (including accrual of PTO, insurance, and educational benefits).