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A New Sick Leave Requirement: COVID-19 Temporary Emergency Paid Sick Leave Program

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Under Chapter 16 of the Acts of 2021, from May 28, 2021, the employers are required to provide employees up to 40 hours of COVID-19 Massachusetts Emergency Paid Sick Leave (MA EPSL) when the employees are unable to work due to specific qualifying reasons related to the pandemic. The MA EPSL is effective until the earlier of Sept. 30 or until reimbursement funds are depleted.


Under MA EPSL provisions, such sick leave benefit is in addition to existing paid time-off benefits offered by employers or required by law (such as earned sick time), subject to some limited exceptions. While all employers (except the federal government) must provide the MA EPSL, they are eligible to be reimbursed for the costs of MA EPSL from a newly established state fund.


Qualifying Reasons for Leave


Under the MA EPSL, all employees are able to take the leave if it is due to following reasons:[1]

  1. an employee’s need to:

    1. self-isolate and care for themself because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19;

    2. get a medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms; or

    3. get or recover from a COVID-19 immunization;

  2. an employee’s need to care for a family member who:

    1. must self-isolate due to a COVID-19 diagnosis; or

    2. needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms;

  3. a quarantine order or similar determination regarding the employee by a local, state, or federal public official, a health authority having jurisdiction, or a health care provider;

  4. an employee’s need to care for a family member due to a quarantine order or similar determination regarding the 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; or

  5. an employee’s inability to telework due to COVID-19 symptoms.

  6. Note that, in general, employers may not require employees to use other types of available paid leave before they use COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave. Similarly, employers may not require employees to search for or find a replacement worker to cover the time the employee will miss while using COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave


Amount of Leaves


The Employers shall provide the duration of the leave based on the working hours of the employee per week. [2]


1. Employees working 40 hours or more per week are entitled to 40 hours of MA EPSL.

2. Employees who regularly work fewer than 40 hours per week, employers must provide leave in an amount that is equal to the average number of hours that such employee works per week.

3. Employees whose schedule and weekly hours vary from week to week, employers must provide leave that is equal to the average number of hours that the employee was scheduled to work per week over the previous 6-months.

4. If an employee with a variable schedule has not worked for the employer for 6 months, the employer must provide leave that is equal to the number of hours per week that the employee reasonably expected to work when hired.

5. 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 $850 (including cost of benefits).


Employees are required to provide notice to employers of the need for MA EPSL as soon as practicable or foreseeable. And Employers are required to provide a copy to all employees and post a notice regarding MA EPSL.


For more information on how to apply for reimbursement and details of the MA EPSL, please visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-temporary-emergency-paid-sick-leave-program.


[1] https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-temporary-emergency-paid-sick-leave-program [2] https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-temporary-emergency-paid-sick-leave-program

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