On Friday, Governor Baker signed legislation to enact COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave for all Massachusetts employers.  Under the new law, employers must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave for all employees from now through September 30, 2021.  Paid leave can be capped at $850 in paid leave (including benefits) per employee, and the Commonwealth will reimburse employers for this sick leave.

Amount of Leave

Employers must provide up to 40 hours of COVID-19 sick leave for regular full-time employees.  Part-time employees can receive a prorated amount, and workers with irregular hours should receive an amount equal to their average number of hours per week over the past 6 months.

Uses

COVID-19 sick leave can be used for the following purposes:

  • An employee’s own COVID-19 illness (including if they cannot work remotely);
  • Time off to get vaccinated or recover from vaccine side effects;
  • Caring for a family member with COVID-19; or
  • Time off due to a quarantine order for the employee or their family member.

Family member is defined broadly to include a spouse/domestic partner, child (including stepchild and foster child), parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, or sibling.

COVID-19 Sick Leave can be used on an intermittent basis in hourly increments.

Interaction with Other Sick Leaves

COVID-19 sick leave is separate from your regular sick leave bank.  Employers cannot require employees to use their regular sick leave before using COVID-19 sick leave.

If you already provide paid COVID-19 sick leave that meets the requirements of the new law, you are not required to provide additional COVID-19 sick leave.

Employers with fewer than 500 employees are also covered by federal paid COVID sick leave under the American Rescue Plan Act, which extended FFCRA tax credits through September 30, 2021.  FFCRA COVID sick leave is optional, but it is fully reimbursed by the federal government and we recommend that employers offer it if they are eligible.

(For more details on APRA/FFCRA leave, see our previous newsletter https://law.marshallhalem.com/arpa-covid-sick-leave-and-vaccines-may-2021/.

If you are currently offering COVID-19 sick leave under FFCRA, you do not need to offer additional leave.  Any sick leave reimbursed by the federal government under FFCRA is not eligible for reimbursement by the state.  If your company does not fall under FFCRA or if you have elected not to offer FFCRA leave, you are now required to offer COVID-19 sick leave under the Massachusetts law, and this leave will be reimbursed by the state.

Notice Requirement

The new law includes a notice requirement that must be posted or emailed to all employees.  The poster is not yet available, but should be issued in the next week or so.

Reimbursement

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (“DUA”) will be handling employer reimbursement.  DUA has not released the reimbursement procedures yet, but we expect that those will be issued shortly as well.  In the meantime, if an employee needs to take COVID-19 sick leave, you should make a record with the following information:

  1. Employee’s name, social security number, or tax identification number
  2. Date(s) and reasons for the leave
  3. Amount of wages and benefits paid during leave
  4. The employee’s regular weekly hours (or average over the past six months for employees with irregular schedules)
  5. A statement by the employee that they are requesting leave and written support for the leave
  6. For COVID-19 illnesses, a statement by the employee that they are unable to work or telework
  7. For a quarantine, the name of the government entity or health care provider ordering/recommending quarantine
  8. For family members, the name of the individual and their relation to the employee

As always, please reach out with any questions about this new leave.