Under Chapter 16 of the Acts of 2021, the state of Massachusetts recently established a statewide mandate for employers to make paid leave time available to their employees who work up to 40 hours per week when they are unable to work as a result of qualifying reasons related to COVID-19.
Guidance for Employers
Gov. Charlie Baker signed HB 3702 into law on May 28, 2021, after initially vetoing the legislation in April. Per the law, employees are entitled to Massachusetts emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) benefits until September 30, 2021, or until program funds are depleted.
Qualifying Reasons for Leave
Massachusetts employers are required to pay EPSL to employees unable to work due to issues relating to COVID-19 due to any of the following reasons, as stated by the newly enacted law:
- An employee’s need to:
- self-isolate and care for themself due to a COVID-19 diagnosis;
- seek or obtain a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; or
- obtain a COVID-19 immunization;
- if the employee needs to care for a family member who:
- is self-isolating due to a COVID-19 diagnosis; or
- needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;
- an employee complying with a quarantine order or other determination by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority with jurisdiction, or a health care provider or family member’s employer;
- an employee is inhibited by COVID-19 symptoms and is unable to telework.
Amount of Leave
- Employees working at least 40 hours per week must be provided 40 hours of emergency COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave.
- Employees working fewer than 40 hours per week on a regular schedule must be provided leave in an amount that is equal to the average number of hours that employee works per week.
- Employees with varying hours and schedules must be provided leave equal to the average hours worked during the prior six-month period.
- $850 per employee is the maximum an employer must pay and the maximum eligible for reimbursement.
Employers seeking reimbursement under the act must require employees to give notice of the need for leave. The notice must include the employee’s name, dates of leave, and a statement regarding the specific COVID-19 reason for the leave and confirmation that circumstance caused the employee to be unable to work. If applicable, the government agency or health care provider requiring quarantine must also be listed.
What Are Next Steps for Employers?
- To ensure compliance with COVID-19 EPSL, employers should review the state’s Employer Guidance document and web page.
- Provide the Massachusetts Notice to Employees to all workers.
- Employers should remain aware of all COVID-19 paid leave laws within the jurisdictions in which they employ workers. A list of states and cities with COVID-19 paid sick leave is available from SHRM.