Massachusetts Extends COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Mandate ~ Symphony Employer Solutions Keeps YOUR Business Compliant

MA Extends COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Mandate

Just hours before expiration, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation extending the mandate for state employers to continue providing emergency paid leave related to COVID-19. These COVID-19 paid leave obligations will now continue until April 1, 2022.

MA Extends COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave: A Review

The law covers all public and private employers in Massachusetts. Employers are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid emergency leave to employees who have a primary place of employment is in the Commonwealth and unable to work due to COVID-19. The amount of paid leave an employee is entitled to depend on the number of hours they work in a week:

  • Employees who regularly work 40 or more hours per week can receive 40 hours of emergency COVID-19 paid leave.
  • Employees regularly working fewer than 40 hours per week will receive emergency COVID-19 paid equal to the number of average hours that the employee works over a 14-day period.
  • Employees working varying hours from week to week will receive emergency COVID-19 paid leave equivalent to the average number of hours they worked each week over the six-month period immediately preceding the date on which they take the emergency paid leave. If the employee did not work a six-month period prior to taking leave, then they can receive leave based on a reasonable expectation of the average hours per week than they would normally be scheduled to work.

Employees may use COVID-19 paid leave for the following qualifying reasons:

  • Self-isolating and caring for oneself because of the employee’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • Seeking or obtaining a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Obtaining immunization related to COVID-19 or recovering from an injury, disability, illness, or condition related to such immunization.
  • Caring for a family member who is self-isolating due to a COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • Caring for a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Caring for a family member who is obtaining an immunization related to COVID-19 or is recovering from an injury, disability, illness, or condition related to such immunization.
  • Complying with a quarantine order from a public official, health authority, employer, or healthcare provider.
  • An inability to telework due to COVID-19 because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and the symptoms inhibit their ability to telework.

What is New?

  1. The mandate has been extended from October 1, 2021, to April 1, 2022.
  2. Starting October 1, 2021, Eligible employees will now be covered to care for a family member who “is obtaining immunization related to COVID-19 or is recovering from an injury, disability, illness or condition related to such immunization.” This use is not retroactive to events prior to October 1.
  3. The Mass.gov FAQ state that “the law does not address how many times an employee can take leave, there is a cap that limits total (leave) hours” to 40. This cap does not restart but is a cap for the program since inception.

Employers must retain the same employment benefits for those eligible for COVID-19 paid leave while they are on leave. These benefits include group life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, sick leave, annual or vacation leave, educational benefits, and pensions.

Employer Responsibilities

  • Employers may not require employees to use other types of available paid leave before they use COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave.
  • Employers may not require employees to find someone else to cover the time they will miss while using COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave.
  • Employers may not interfere with an employee’s ability to use COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave or retaliate against an employee for taking COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave.
  • Employers are required to post the MA COVID-19 Emergency Leave Notice in a prominent location and provide each employee with a copy. Download Notice here.
  • Employers should develop a written leave request form for employees to complete and maintain a copy in the employee’s personnel file.
  • Employers must also keep written medical documentation from an employee if the employer is going to request reimbursement from the state fund.

Financial Support for Employers

The original law established a fund of $75 million to support COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave. Eligible employers may apply for reimbursement for full wage and benefit expenses up to the $850 cap. Reimbursements will be made until the balance of the fund is depleted.

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