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[UPDATED] What We Know So Far About Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave (MA EPSL)

Available to Watch OnDemand! Our local employer advisory session on 06/16 where we discussed employer requirements and action steps concerning the MA EPSL mandate.

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[UPDATED October 1, 2021]

On September 29, 2021, Governor Baker extended the Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave (MA EPSL) mandate, which was put in place on May 28, 2021, until April 1, 2022, or until the fund is exhausted. Many of the provisions are similar to FFCRA’s Emergency Paid Sick Leave, however, the MA EPSL is required by all MA employers, regardless of size. This extension also includes $500,000 in state funds to promote the emergency paid leave law. As of October 1, 2021, the Commonwealth has reimbursed employers approximately $2 million for MA Emergency Paid Sick Leave claims.

 

Here are some key highlights regarding the MA EPSL:

  • All MA Employers are required to provide 40 hours of MA EPSL to employees working 40 hours per week. For part-time and variable schedule employees, please see guidance from the state for more details around calculating their available paid sick leave.
  • Effective October 1, 2021, the program expands eligibility for family leave. An employee will be able to take leave to help a family member get vaccinated and recover from any illness or disability related to the immunization.
  • MA EPSL is reimbursable from the state, up to $850 per employee. To request a reimbursement, employers will need to login to their MassTaxConnect website and follow the steps outlined on the state website regarding MA EPSL.
  • The maximum amount an employer is required to pay per employee, and the maximum amount for which the employer may seek reimbursement for any one employee, is capped at $850.
  • The MA EPSL is separate from any current sick time, vacation, and/or PTO already provided to employees.
  • Employers may not require employees to use other types of available paid leave before they use MA EPSL.
  • Employers must provide notice to their employees about MA EPSL and can use the model MA EPSL notice or model poster

Reasons for Leave

Employees can take leave if they are unable to work for the following COVID-19-related reasons:

  • An employee’s need to care for themselves or a family member who:
    • Must self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis
    • Needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms
  • An employee’s need to receive or recover from a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Effective October 1, 2021, an employee is able to take leave to help a family member get vaccinated and recover from any illness or disability related to the immunization.
  • A quarantine order or similar determination regarding the employee or a family member by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, the family member’s employer, or a health care provider
  • An employee’s inability to telework due to COVID-19 symptoms

While the reasons for leave are similar to FFCRA, there is no requirement under MA EPSL to provide leave to care for a child due to school or place of care closure. The state’s current guidance does not address how FFCRA interacts, where applicable, with MA EPSL. Additional guidance by the state is forthcoming.

Employee Requests for Leave.

In order for an employer to be eligible for MA EPSL reimbursement, they must receive employee requests to take MA EPSL in writing. The state has provided a sample request form which can be accessed HERE. The MA EPSL website also includes details on what a form should include if employers would like to create their own.

Anti-retaliation Provisions

Employers may not retaliate or interfere with an employee’s right to exercise their MA EPSL time.

Interaction with FFCRA

On June 7, 2021, MA released FAQs which provides clarity into the interaction of FFCRA. From the Americans Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), employers with fewer than 500 employees had the option to extend FFCRA benefits through September 30, 2021.
MA clarified within their FAQs that MA EPSL “is for 40 hours between May 28 and the termination of the mandate. For an employee who took federal leave prior to May 28, the state leave may be in addition to the federal leave. However, to the extent employees have not exhausted their federal leave, the state and federal leave may run concurrently on or after May 28, so long as the state mandate is met in full.”

Next Steps

Massachusetts has released a website with additional information and FAQs on the usage, reimbursement and interaction of MA EPSL.

Employers must notify their workforces about MA EPSL by displaying the model MA EPSL notice or model poster in a conspicuous location within the workplace. Employers who do not maintain a physical workspace, or who has employees teleworking, must send the notice via electronic communication or a conspicuous posting in a web-based platform.

Employers should setup payroll codes for MA EPSL and continue to monitor ongoing guidance from the state.

We will continue to provide updates and guidance as the DUA releases more information.

 

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