New Law Requires Employers to Provide their Workers up to 40 Hours of Sick Leave to Address COVID-19 Issues

Effective from May 28 through September 30, 2021, employers in Massachusetts must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time to workers who require leave due to Covid-19, either for themselves or their families. The paid time is in addition to regular sick leave hours under existing state law, and the legislature created a $75 million fund to reimburse employers for related expenses.

Before signing the legislating just before Memorial Day, Gov. Baker rejected a similar bill but let legislators know he’d support sick leave for COVID with certain changes. In its final form, the new law requires employers to provide paid sick leave at an employee’s regular pay rate, up to $850 weekly, for the following purposes.

  1. For employees themselves, to self-isolate due to a Covid-19 diagnosis; to seek a medical diagnosis or care for COVID symptoms; or to recover from the COVID vaccine.
  2. To permit workers to care for family members who are seeking a diagnosis, self-isolating, or being treated for the disease.
  3. To comply with a local or other quarantine order that prevents work.
  4. Because an employee cannot telework due to COVID symptoms.

Employers can apply to the Commonwealth for reimbursement of their costs for this program. To do so, they must require workers to complete a form that describes the reason leave was taken. Employers need to retain this data along with other information such as the employee’s social security number, regular work schedule, and benefits records. The data will be used to apply through an as-yet undefined reimbursement application process.

Employers are, of course, barred from retaliating against employees who take COVID sick leave or act in support of it for themselves or other workers. Additional information, including the information required to be collected and maintained to be eligible for reimbursement, and other common questions, is available at the Commonwealth’s website, which was posted June 11: