Massachusetts has updated its COVID sick leave law to extend the deadline and expand the reasons for leave. As before, the law applies to all employers and entitles employees to paid leave when they can’t work for certain COVID-related reasons. Employers can seek reimbursement for money paid to employees for COVID sick leave.
Previously, the law was set to expire on September 30 or when the state fund is exhausted, whichever is earlier. Now the date is April 1, 2022 or when the fund is exhausted (still whichever is sooner). As of October 1, 2021, employees can also use their COVID sick leave to care for a family member who is either getting vaccinated against COVID or recovering from vaccination side effects.
Under the act, an employer must provide an employee with up to 40 hours of paid leave (a maximum benefit of $850 per week, reimbursable to the employer from the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund) when the employee:
- needs to “self-isolate and care for [himself or herself] because of the employee’s COVID-19 diagnosis”;
- needs to “care for a family member who is self-isolating due to a COVID-19 diagnosis”;
- needs to obtain a “medical diagnosis, care or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms”;
- needs to “care for a family member” seeking “medical diagnosis, care or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms”;
- is unable to telework due to a COVID-19 diagnosis “and the symptoms inhibit the ability of the employee to telework”;
- uses the time to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination or recover from illness related to the COVID-19 vaccination; or
- is subject to a quarantine order or similar determination, or such an order or determination applies to the employee’s family member, due to COVID-19 exposure or symptoms, “regardless of whether” the employee or the employee’s “family member has been diagnosed with COVID-19.”
Are employers still required to provide leave?
Yes. Because Governor Baker signed the bill, approving the extension to April 1, 2022, employers will be required to provide COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave to their employees under the act. The anti-retaliation provisions of the act are also extended to April 1, 2022, or until the exhaustion of $75 million in program funds, whichever is earlier.
What type of leave is provided under the act?
The extension of the act expands the reasons employers can use leave for family members. The initial law allowed an employee to take leave to care for a family member who was “self-isolating due to a COVID-19 diagnosis” or who needed “medical diagnosis, care or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.” The act now also allows an employee to take leave to care 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.” The act does not change the other reasons for covered leave.
Are there any changes to the allocation of funds?
The new law reallocates up to $500,000 of the $75 million in funds for a public campaign to promote awareness of the act.