Beginning on May 28, 2021 and extending through the end of September, Massachusetts employees will be eligible for up to 40 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave providing paid time off for qualifying reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the terms of the temporary emergency legislation, employees can use the paid time off for a variety of COVID-19-related reasons including:
- self-isolation due to a COVID-19 diagnosis;
- seeking diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;
- obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine or recovering from vaccine side-effects;
- caring for a family member who is self-isolating or who is in need of diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;
- a quarantine order or determination from a government official or healthcare provider;
- caring for a family member under a quarantine order or determination; or
- being unable to telework due to symptoms of a diagnosed case of COVID-19 that prevent the employee from teleworking.
The paid sick leave, which is capped at 40 hours for employees who regularly work 40 or more hours per week and is prorated for part-time employees, is in addition to all other paid and unpaid job-protected leave available to employees under state and federal law and employer’s policies or collective bargaining agreements. Employers cannot require employees to use other available paid leave before taking this new temporary EPSL benefit. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees in connection with use of the benefits provided under this law.
Employers will be reimbursed for payments made to employees under this law. For employers with fewer than 500 employees, the reimbursement will come through payroll tax credits available under the extension of the federal Families First Coronavirus Recover Act. For larger employers, who are not eligible for the FFCRA tax credits, Massachusetts has established a special fund to reimburse employers.
Employers are required to give notice to employees of the availability of these new EPSL benefits. A model notice, and FAQs about the law can be found on the state’s website.
Employers should familiarize themselves with this new law, and should reach out to their employment attorney with questions about the law’s requirements and how to implement them.