Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Forms
As many readers know, on May 28, 2021, An Act Providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave was passed. The Act creates a fund for the Commonwealth to reimburse eligible employers who provide employees with COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave. This statute provides that between May 28, 2021, and the earlier of the exhaustion of $75 million in program funds (as determined by the Commonwealth) or September 30, 2021, Massachusetts employers must offer paid leave to employees who are unable to work as a result of five specific reasons (set forth below).
When Leave Is Available:
Massachusetts employers are required to provide emergency paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work for the following COVID-19-related reasons:
- Employee’s need to:
- self-isolate and care for themselves because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- get a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; or
- get or recover from a COVID-19 immunization;
- Employee’s need to care for a family member who:
- must self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis; or
- needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;
- Employee is subject to a quarantine order or similar determination by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, or a health care provider;
- Employee has a need to care for a family member due to a quarantine order or similar determination regarding the family member by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, the family member’s employer, or a health care provider; or
- Employee is unable to telework due to COVID-19 symptoms.
How Does It Work?
Leave is made available to employees based on the number of hours in which they work:
- Employees who work 40 hours or more per week shall be provided 40 hours of COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave;
- Employees whose hours vary from week to week are entitled to the average number of hours that the employee was scheduled to work per week over the six month period prior to the date in which leave is sought (or if there has not been 6 months of work, the employee’s reasonable expectation of hours per week at the time of hire).
- Employees who work less than 40 hours a week, but maintain a regular schedule with the same number of hours worked per week, are entitled to an equal number of hours as that employee works per week (as determined on average over a 14-day period);
A form will be created by the Commonwealth for employers to use to seek reimbursement for funds paid to employees as a result of this leave. The Commonwealth will provide such reimbursement to employers within 30 business days of the employer submitting the application.
Employers must maintain the same employment benefits to employees during the course of this leave. There is a limitation on reimbursement, with employees eligible for only $850 per week of reimbursed pay.
It is important to remember that an employer cannot require employees to use other types of available paid leave before they use COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave. Similarly, employers may not require employees to find a co-worker to cover any time the employee will miss while using COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave.
What To Do Now?
Employers are required to provide all employees with notice of the need for leave. That notice was recently posted and is available here in English. The DOL has issued the notice in other languages as well (available here).
Additionally, employers must be mindful that they cannot interfere with an employee’s ability to use this leave or retaliate against an employee for exercising rights under the statute. Employers should make sure that they do not restrain employee’s ability to take the leave, use the taking of leave as a negative factor in employment action (evaluations, promotions, disciplinary action), and/or take any adverse action against an employee because the employee opposes practices believed to be in violation of the Act or supports another employee’s exercise of their rights under the Act.