What Employers Need to Know About the Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave

By Mark Macchi, Catherine Reuben, Alexandra Mitropoulos   June 8, 2021


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On May 28, 2021, Governor Baker signed into law An Act Providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave (the “Act”), which requires employers to provide up to forty (40) hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave to employees with a primary place of employment in Massachusetts who are unable to work for COVID-19-related reasons that are specified in the Act.

The Executive Office for Administration and Finance (“EOAF”) has established a website housing guidance and other information concerning the Act, including a set of Frequently Asked Questions.  Some key takeaways from the Act and FAQs for employers include the following:

Effective Date

The effective date of the Act was May 28, 2021, meaning that leave under the Act became available as of May 28. The Act will remain effective until the earlier of when the fund established to reimburse employers for payments made pursuant to the Act is approaching zero or September 30, 2021.

Notice Requirements

Employers are required to provide notice of the Act to eligible employees. Where the employer maintains a physical workspace, the notice requirement may be satisfied by posting a notice in a conspicuous location accessible to employees.  In cases where the employer does not maintain a physical workplace, or an employee teleworks or performs work through a web-based platform, notification must be made via electronic communication or through a conspicuous posting in the web-based platform.  The EOAF has published the required notice in poster form and in a form to be sent via electronic communication.

Reasons for Leave

A covered employee may take leave under the Act if unable to work for the following COVID-19-related reasons:

1) an employee’s need to:
a) self-isolate and care for themself because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19;
b) get a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; or
c) get or recover from a COVID-19 immunization;

2) an employee’s need to care for a family member who:
a) must self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis; or
b) needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;

3) a quarantine order or similar determination regarding the employee by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, or a health care provider;

4) an employee’s 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

5) an employee’s inability to telework due to COVID-19 symptoms.

Leave Allotment

Employees may be entitled to up to forty (40) hours of leave under the Act depending on their weekly work schedule.  Information concerning leave allotment can be found here.

Payment During Leave

The maximum amount an employer is required to pay per employee, and the maximum amount for which the employer may seek reimbursement for any one employee, is $850 (including cost of benefits). Employees may use other forms of paid time off, such as sick leave, in order to earn their normal rate of pay while out on leave.

Application for Leave and Reimbursement

Subject to certain conditions outlined in the Act and FAQs, employers may seek reimbursement for payments made pursuant to the Act up to $850 per employee who has taken leave under the Act.  The EOAF will be publishing standard application forms for employee leave requests and for employer reimbursement applications in the near future.  In the meantime, employers should be sure to maintain documentation concerning leave requests as identified in the Act.

Interaction with Other COVID-19 Related Leave Policies and Programs

The FAQs provide information concerning how the Act interacts with other leave policies and programs, whether the employer has opted to provide leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), or some other voluntary COVID-19-related policy.  For example, if an employer offers employees leave under the FFCRA, the employer must first seek reimbursement for a covered leave through the FFCRA before applying for state reimbursement.  Employers should review the FAQs and consult with counsel if they have questions concerning how their policies or programs may interact with the Act.

It is anticipated that additional forms will be published in the coming days concerning employee applications for benefits under the Act and the process for seeking reimbursement.  In the meantime, employers must provide the notice identified above to employees subject to the Act and comply with its leave obligations.

For Questions/Compliance Assistance

If you have any questions about the Act and its potential impact on your business or organization, please contact:

  • Mark Macchi (mmacchi@hrwlawyers.com / 617-348-4331);
  • Allie Mitropoulos (amitropoulos@hrwlawyers.com / 617-348-4332);
  • Cathy Reuben (creuben@hrwlawyers.com / 617-348-4316); or
  • Any member of the HRW Team to discuss your particular situation.

Click here to download this alert as a PDF.

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