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Massachusetts Extends Its COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

Originally set to expire on September 30, 2021, Massachusetts has extended its COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave until April 1, 2022.

What is Required Under the Leave Law?

Massachusetts employers must temporarily provide employees up to 40 hours of COVID-19 Massachusetts emergency paid sick leave (MA EPSL) when they are unable to work or telework due to specific qualifying reasons related to the pandemic as follows:

An employee’s need to:

  • Self-isolate and care for themself because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • Get a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Get or recover from a COVID-19 immunization; or
  • Comply with a quarantine order or similar determination by a local, state, or federal public official; a health authority having jurisdiction; or a health care provider.

To care for a family member who:

  • Must self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis;
  • Needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Is obtaining an immunization related to COVID-19 or is recovering from an injury, disability, illness or condition related to such immunization; or
  • Is subject to a quarantine order or similar determination by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, the family member’s employer, or a health care provider.

Which Family Members are Covered Under the Law?

The law defines “family member” as an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, parent (including the parent of a spouse or domestic partner), a grandchild, grandparent or sibling.

Who Is a Covered Employer?

Diverging from the federal emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employers cannot opt out of this new law. There are also no employer size thresholds tied to the leave, as such, all employers (other than federal agencies) must provide MA EPSL to all Massachusetts employees.

What are the Pay Requirements Under the Law?

Employees working at least 40 hours per week are entitled to the maximum entitlement of 40 hours of MA EPSL. Employees working fewer than 40 hours per week on a regular schedule with consistent hours are entitled to MA EPSL in an amount equal to the average number of hours they work during a regular 14-day schedule. Employees with varying hours and schedules are entitled to MA EPSL in an amount equal to the average hours they worked during the prior six-month period.

Employers must pay employees up to a maximum of $850 per week. While MA EPSL is in addition to other required forms of paid time off, it may be reduced if the total amount the employee receives would exceed the employee’s average weekly wage. MA EPSL may also be reduced by the amount of wages or wage replacement that an employee receives under any government program or law.

How Can Leave Be Taken?

Leave may be taken intermittently or in hourly increments.

How Does This Leave Correlate to Other Time Off Offered By Employers?

MA EPSL is in addition to existing paid time off benefits offered by employers or required by law, such as leave under Massachusetts Earned Sick Time, a collective bargaining agreement, or federal law. Employers who have voluntarily created a COVID-19 sick leave policy that provides employees the required amounts of COVID-19 sick leave for the qualifying reasons under the law are not required to provide additional MA EPSL. Employers may not require an employee to use other forms of leave before using MA EPSL (unless required by federal law).

What are the Employer Reimbursement Entitlements, and How Is Reimbursement Obtained?

Employers may seek reimbursement from the state for the amounts of MA EPSL paid to employees, up to the $850 per week cap. However, employers cannot obtain reimbursement for MA EPSL payments for periods in which they received a tax credit for leave provided under the FFCRA, which expired as of September 30, 2021.

To obtain reimbursement for MA EPSL, employers should request the following information from employees:

  • A written request to use EPSL
  • Employee’s name
  • Dates of the requested leave
  • A statement of the covered reason for the leave
  • A statement that because of the reason for leave, the employee is unable to work or telework
  • If the leave is due to a quarantine or isolation order, the name of the governmental entity or health care provider advising to quarantine, and if the person quarantining is an employee’s family member, the name of the family member and relation to the employee

Employers should also ensure they have a record of amounts paid to the employee during leave, the amount of leave taken, the employee’s regular schedule, and other information to claim reimbursement.

All health-related information obtained from the employee is considered a medical record and should be treated as confidential and kept in a file separate from other personnel records.

The state has also developed a sample leave request form which is available on the state’s COVID-19 Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program webpage under the “Additional Resources” section.

Is Notice of Available Leave Required to Be Provided to Employees?

Employers are required to post a notice to employees about MA EPSL. The applicable notice may be downloaded by clicking here.

Additional Information

Additional guidance on MA EPSL reimbursements is availble on the state’s website and may be accessed here.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.