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What You Need to Know about the COVID Leave Law

Posted on June 4, 2021

Governor Charlie Baker last week signed legislation that established a Massachusetts COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave program. The legislation also included a solution to the unemployment insurance solvency assessment spike, alleviating some financial pressure on employers.

Under the new COVID-19 leave program, Massachusetts employers, regardless of size, will be responsible to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to 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 of benefit of $850 per week. The program, which begins Monday, will be overseen by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance (A&F).

An employee is entitled to the new sick leave to:

  • isolate and care for himself or herself because of the employee’s COVID-19 diagnosis;
  • seek or obtain medical diagnosis, care or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; or
  • obtain the COVID-19 vaccine or 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 isolating or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

In exchange for providing this benefit, employers will be reimbursed by the Massachusetts Department of Administration and Finance for the wages paid to the employee. The state reimbursement is available only to employers who are not eligible for sick-leave reimbursement through the federal tax credit under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

The state has not yet established a reimbursement process, but AIM anticipates one will be in place shortly and will update members accordingly.

Employers not eligible for the federal tax credit should attest that they are ineligible. Those who do so are free to access the state reimbursement.

Employers may be ineligible for the federal tax credit because they are categorically disqualified or because the parameters of the leave program the employer offers do not meet federal requirements.

AIM has recently learned that employers receiving the federal tax credit that have workers who exhaust their 80 hours of FFCRA paid leave must still provide up to the 40 hours of state emergency paid COVID-19 sick leave, if the worker qualifies.

Employers may not require employees to use other types of types of paid leave before taking a Massachusetts COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave. Employers must also post a notice of the new law in the workplace by today.  The notice is available here.

The law will remain in place until September 30, 2021, or until the $75 million allocated by the Massachusetts Legislature to fund leave reimbursements expires.

Additional guidance is expected soon.

AIM members with questions about the COVID leave law may contact the Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.