Legislature Extends Massachusetts COVID-19 Leave into 2022
September 29, 2021
Massachusetts employers complying with the state’s COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave program will have to continue their obligation into 2022. Today, Governor Baker signed language given to him by the Legislature on Monday which will extend the program to April 1, 2022. The additional 40 hours of leave was previously set to expire on October 1, 2021, until the House and Senate extended it quietly in an informal session this past Monday. The extended program maintains all of the provisions in the original plan.
Massachusetts employers, regardless of size, will be responsible for providing up to 40 hours of paid sick leave for their full-time employees. The benefit is prorated for part-time workers. Employees on leave will be paid at their wage rate up to a maximum benefit of $850. The extension does not create 40 additional hours of paid leave for individuals who previously exhausted the benefit.
Employees are entitled to the new sick leave to:
- self-isolate and care for themselves because of the employee’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
- seek or obtain a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.
- obtain the COVID-19 vaccine or to recover from an injury, disability, illness, or condition related to such vaccination.
Eligible employees may also take leave to care for a family member who is self-isolating or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. In a key change, the extension legislation also allows an individual to take leave to assist a family member to get vaccinated and recover from any illness or disability related to the immunization.
In exchange for providing this benefit, employers will be reimbursed for the paid wages by the Department of Administration and Finance. The state reimbursement was only available to employers who were not eligible for sick leave reimbursement through the federal tax credit under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). However, when the FFCRA expires tomorrow, all employers, regardless of size, will be eligible for reimbursement under the state plan.
The law will remain in place until April 1, 2022, or until the $75 million allocated by the legislature to fund leave, reimbursements expires. As of September 23rd, the fund had only paid out $2.6 million and has a balance of roughly $72.4 million remaining. The bill also allocated $500k from the sick leave fund to be spent on a public awareness campaign to draw attention to the benefit.