Starting June 7, employers are required to provide paid COVID-19 sick leave to employees who can’t work because of COVID. COVID sick leave is in addition to other leaves the employer provides, whether required by law or provided as part of an employer’s policies or usual practices.
Employers will be able to seek reimbursement from a state fund to cover employees’ wages during COVID sick leave. The new law covers all employers and employees and lasts until September 30, 2021, or until money in the state fund runs out.
Employees who work 40 or more hours per week are entitled to take up to 40 hours of COVID sick leave. Employees who work less than 40 hours get a prorated amount based on how many hours they work per week, either averaged over two weeks if they have a consistent schedule or over six months if they don’t.
Employees can take COVID sick leave in hourly increments and don’t have to take their leave all at once. For example, if they need an hour to go get their first vaccine dose this week, an hour to get their second shot a couple weeks later, and can’t work for the two days following their second shot, they are entitled to use their COVID sick leave for all three instances.
Employees may only receive up to $850 per week specifically from paid COVID-19 sick leave and employers will only be reimbursed for up to $850 per week per employee. The state has not yet made it clear if or how employees who would generally make more than that should be compensated beyond the $850 cap.
Employees can take COVID sick leave when they can’t work for a variety of reasons related to COVID. Examples include time to get the COVID shot, recover from vaccine side effects, get tested for COVID, isolate, or quarantine. Employees may also take COVID sick leave to care for a family member who has symptoms of COVID or is in isolation or quarantine if they require care. However, this leave does not provide paid time for the employee to help a family member get vaccinated.
Leave cannot be used if the employee can telework, if the business is closed, or if schools or daycares are closed because of COVID.
Employers must post a notice about this leave in an easy-to-see location in the workplace and provide it electronically to remote employees. The required notice will be created by the state and should be available soon on the website linked below.
The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) will develop an outreach program to inform employers and employees about this new law. EOLWD will also create the notice described above, an employee request form, and a reimbursement application. We recommend checking their website and mass.gov on June 7 for updates.