On September 29, 2021, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed an extension of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Law, which was set to expire September 30, 2021, and expanded slightly the reasons for which employees can use leave. A more detailed description of the law can be found here. The law, which went into effect May 28, 2021, created a new sick leave entitlement for employees who are, or whose family members are, affected by COVID-19. In addition, the law established a $75 million fund for certain employers to seek reimbursement for paid leave provided to employees. To date, the Commonwealth has reimbursed employers approximately $2 million for COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave claims. With the extension, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave program is now set to expire April 1, 2022.
Under the law, employees are permitted to take paid sick leave for certain reasons, including to address their own COVID-19-related health issues, obtain or recover from a COVID-19 vaccination, or to care for a family member affected by COVID-19. The extension expands the reasons for which employees can use Emergency Paid Sick Leave to care for a family member. The original law allowed employees to take leave to care for a family member who must self-isolate or quarantine for reasons related to COVID-19 or who seeks medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19. Under the extension, employees may now also use leave to care for a family member who needs to obtain or recover from a COVID-19 vaccine.
The extension does not change the amount of Emergency Paid Sick Leave available. The original law provides employees the following amount of leave:
- Employees who work 40 hours or more a week may take up to 40 hours of paid sick leave.
- Employees who work less than 40 hours per week but maintain a regular schedule can take an amount of leave equal to the number of hours that the employee works per week on average over a 14-day period.
- If an employee's hours vary from week to week, then the employee is eligible for leave equal to either (a) the average number of hours that the employee was scheduled to work per week over the six-month period immediately preceding the date of leave, or (b) if the employee has not worked for six months, the reasonable expectation of the employee at the time of hire of the average number of hours per week that the employee would normally be scheduled to work.
Employees are eligible to receive up to a total of $850 in Emergency Paid Sick Leave benefits. Employers that are not eligible for reimbursement through federal tax credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act may seek reimbursement for leave payments from the Commonwealth.
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