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NY Issues Updated Guidance On COVID-19 Paid Vaccination Leave Confirms Paid Time Off Maybe Used for Booster Shots

On March 12, former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill requiring that all public and private employers in New York State provide their workforces with up to four hours of paid time off to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The law remains in effect until December 31, 2022.

What Is Required Under the Law?

The law requires employers to provide employees with “sufficient time” (up to four hours, per injection) to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Time off under this law must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay and cannot be charged to any employer-provided paid time off (i.e., PTO/vacation or personal leave) or to leave required under the state’s paid sick leave law. For those workplaces with collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), the requirements under this law may be waived providing that the CBA explicitly references NY Labor Law 196-c.

The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) also has published guidance on the law, clarifying that:

  • The leave is only available for an employee’s own receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine;
  • The leave must be paid at an employee’s regular rate of pay; and
  • The law does not permit employers to substitute other existing leave options available to the employee, including New York State Paid Sick Leave.

What Is Included in the Updated Guidance?

With the recommendation that Americans who have had their last dose of a two series COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) receive a booster shot at least six months after completing their primary vaccination series and those who received the single dose (Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen) vaccine to receive a booster shot at least two months after receiving their vaccine, many employers were left wondering if paid time off would be granted under this law for booster shots. The state’s updated guidance has explicitly affirmed that paid time off under this leave may also be used to receive booster shots. Specifically, the guidance states, “Labor Law §196-c applies to any COVID-19 vaccination received by an employee, including booster shots.”

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should ensure that they are providing employees with paid time off for booster shots in accordance with the law and their existing policy and procedures for vaccination leave. Additionally, employers should also be mindful that employees who experience side effects from the vaccine may use their New York Paid Sick Leave (NY PSL) to recover with vaccine side effects. More information and resources on NY PSL are available 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.