As COVID-19 infection and hospitalization levels continue to decrease, the Massachusetts law that provided up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to employees for COVID-related absences officially expired on March 15, 2022. The law, which was enacted in May 2021, was meant to be effective until April 1, 2022, or the exhaustion of a fund established by the legislature to reimburse employers for the paid leave, whichever occurred first.
A budget amendment signed by Governor Baker last month provided an additional infusion of cash for the reimbursement fund, but it was not sufficient to carry it through to the April 1 target date. As a result, the Commonwealth ended the program two weeks early.
Employers may still seek reimbursement for qualifying leave taken between May 28, 2021 and March 15, 2022. All requests for reimbursement must be submitted by employers through the MassTaxConnect website no later than April 29, 2022.
Employers with questions about this benefit should review the helpful information on the state’s website, or contact employment counsel.
While Emergency Paid Sick leave may no longer be available, and while all indications point to a winding down of the pandemic, COVID is still with us. Some employees are still likely to need to take time off from work for COVID-related reasons. Employers should be mindful of the various job-protected leaves that may be available to employees to address these needs including company-provided PTO and state-mandated earned sick time. Depending upon the duration and seriousness of the need for time off, Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave or unpaid FMLA leave may be available.
Given the unique circumstances of a global pandemic coupled with a serious labor shortage, employers are encouraged to be flexible and creative when addressing employees’ needs for time off to deal with COVID-related reasons.