Massachusetts Enacts COVID-19 Emergency Sick Leave Requirement


Mark Ventola | June 7, 2021

Massachusetts employees are now eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave for several reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Continuing through September 30, 2021, or until the $75 million allocated to this program is exhausted, all Massachusetts employers, regardless of size, are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave that will be reimbursed through the State’s Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

The legislation, enacted on an emergency basis, provides that employees may use this paid time off for several reasons that include:

  • self-isolation due to a COVID-19 diagnosis;
  • seeking diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;
  • obtaining the vaccine or recovering from side-effects;
  • caring for a family member who is self-isolating or who needs 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
  • inability to telework due to symptoms of a diagnosed case of COVID-19.

The paid sick leave is limited to 40 hours for full-time employees who regularly work 40 or more hours per week.  For part-time employees the amount of paid sick leave is pro-rated. The maximum that an employer is required to provide under this new law is $850 per week, and there is a provision limiting what an employee could receive under all forms of leave available to him or her to no more than the average weekly wage.

This leave is in addition to all other paid and unpaid job-protected leave available to employees by law, employer policies or collective bargaining agreements.  Employees cannot be required to use other available paid leave before taking this new leave 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, who are thus eligible for payroll tax credits under the extension of the federal Families First Coronavirus Recover Act (“FFCRA”), the credit will come through the FFCRA process.  Employers with more than 500 employees, who are not eligible for the FFCRA payroll tax credits, will be reimbursed through this new State program.

Employers are required to give employees notice of the availability of these new benefits, using a model notice that should be available by June 14, 2021. This notice must be posted.

Employers should familiarize themselves with this new law.  As always, we are available for questions about how this will impact your workforce.