Global Compliance Desk – North America

COVID-19 Time – Off Regulations in US & Canada

With the onset of the pandemic (COVID – 19) in 2020, various laws have been enacted at federal and state levels in the United States of America & at a provincial level in Canada for dealing with the situation. Some of the US State legislatures enacted new regulations/ guidances for employee’s benefit, but most Canadian provinces in retrospect amended their labor code to include unpaid leave for COVID-19.

United States

Most of the States in the US provided paid sick time off under the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). However, the benefits provided under FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020. However, in the latest bill the FFCRA paid leave was further extended (until September 2021) FFCRA paid leave remains a voluntary program, and paid leave only has to be provided by employers if they choose to do so.

Below is a summary of the laws/guidance issued by the respective state legislatures –

State Requirements under Law/Guidance
California

California passed Senate Bill 95 on March 18, 2021, which provides covid supplemental paid sick leave to employees for up to 80 hours. This shall remain effective until September 30, 2021. This applies retroactively to January 1, 2021. The leave will apply to employers with more than 25 employees.

This leave also applies to employees going for appointments to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or experiencing symptoms after vaccination.

New York

New York passed new guidance concerning covid on January 20, 2021, under which employers are required to provide paid sick leave for covid related reasons. The previous guidance passed on March 20, 2020, provided for at least 14 days of paid leave for employers with 100 or more employees. The new guidance released allows employees to take up to 2 additional periods of paid sick leave under the law. This law applies to all employees regardless of the size of the employer. No expiration date was provided.

District of Columbia

On May 27, 2020, the Mayor signed D.C. COVID-19 Support Emergency Amendment Act (CSEA) and provided that during a declared state of a public health emergency, any employee who has worked for 30 days for an employer( of any size) may use up to 16 weeks of “COVID-19” Leave. The right to COVID-19 Leave terminates when the public health emergency ends, even if an employee has not exhausted the 16-week entitlement.

Connecticut

Guidance was issued by the Connecticut labor department concerning the COVID-19 response. The Guidance allows employees under Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave Law (“PSL”) to receive payment for certain absences caused by COVID-19. The PSL applies to employers with 50 or more employees in Connecticut. Eligible employees under PSL accrue 1 hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked during a 365-day period chosen by employers, up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick leave per year.

Michigan

Michigan’s governor had that allows employees to provide that employees can take sick leave for covid-19 related reasons under Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act. As per the Act, employees accrue up to 1 hour of sick leave for every 35 hours worked. The Act further requires that an employer shall allow an eligible employee to use up to 40 hours of sick leave per 12-month period of eligibility. This applies to employers who employ 50 or more employees. The Act provides for 12 exclusions – to which the Act is not applicable including employees who worked, on average, fewer than 25 hours per week during the preceding calendar year.

Colorado

Colorado had passed the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act in 2020 which provides for sick leave and emergency sick leave provisions in case of a pandemic. The supplementary emergency leave provisions however expired in 2020, which was further extended in December of 2020 and which states that effective January 1, 2021 – an employer regardless of the size shall provide sick leave in the below manner:

  • For employees who normally work 40 hours or more per week: At least 80 hours.
  • For employees who normally work fewer than 40 hours in a week: At least the greater of either (i) the number of hours the employee is scheduled for work or PSL (Paid sick leave) in the 14-day period after the request for PHE-PSL (Supplemental Public Health Emergency Paid Sick Leave), or (ii) the amount of time the employee actually worked in the 14-day period before the declaration of the public health emergency or the request for PHE-PSL, whichever is later.

This sick leave may be used until 4 weeks after the official termination or suspension of the public health emergency.

Massachusetts

On April 1, 2021, an Act Financing a Program for Improvements to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and Providing Relief to Employers and Workers in the Commonwealth was signed into law. Under this law The amount of COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave available to an employee regardless of the size of the employer depends on his/her work schedule:

  • An employee who works 40 hours or more per week shall be eligible for up to 40 hours of leave.
  • An employee who works less than 40 hours a week, but maintains a regular schedule with consistent hours per week, shall be eligible for leave that is equal to the number of hours that such employee works per week, on average over a 14-day period of such regular schedule.
  • An employee whose schedule and weekly hours worked vary from week to week is eligible for leave equal to either (a) the average number of hours that the employee was scheduled to work per week over the 6-month period immediately preceding the date of leave, or (b) if the employee has not worked for six months, the reasonable expectation of the employee at the time of hire of the average number of hours per week that the employee would normally be scheduled to work. As Passed by the Legislature, COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave would be available to employees until: (i) monies in the COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund are no longer available; (ii) the Executive Office for Administration and Finance notifies employers that it reasonably anticipates funds will no longer be available for reimbursement; or (iii) September 30, 2021, whichever is first.
Nevada

Nevada passed Bill SB 312 was signed into law and is effective from January 1, 2020. Originally it was to be allowed only for specific illness-related reasons but was gradually allowed to employees, to be used up for any reason including covid 19. Private employers with 50 or more employees in Nevada must now provide each employee with at least 0.01923 hours of paid leave for each hour of work performed in a benefit year, which the bill defines simply as a 365-day period. The bill does not distinguish between full-and part-time employees in this regard. Under the statutory formula, an employee who works 40 hours a week for a full year is entitled to approximately 40 hours of paid leave, which the employee may take without providing a reason for the leave to his or her employer.

Rhode Island

As per the Guidance provided by the Rhode Island Department of Labour, the employers are not required to compensate their employees beyond available paid leave under the statutory state sick leave law, i.e a maximum of 40 hours of paid leave per year for covid related reasons. However, employees may be allowed temporary disability insurance for short-term disability benefits for non-occupational disabilities or unemployment insurance benefits from the state because of reduced working hours or if they have been laid off from work.

New Jersey

New Jersey passed Earned Sick Leave Act which amends New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave (the Act) to allow employees to use the accrued paid sick leave. Employers must provide employees with earned sick leave at the rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours in a year for covid related reasons. This applies to employers of all sizes.

Oregon

In Oregon, employers who have 10 or more employees shall provide employees at least 1 hour of protected sick time for every 30 hours of work up to 40 hours per year. The Oregon government passed theCOVID-19 Temporary Paid Leave Program which helps employees who need to quarantine or isolate because of COVID-19 exposure or are experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, but do not qualify for COVID-19-related paid sick leave or do not have access to COVID-19-related paid time off. People who qualify will receive a $120 per-day payment for up to 10 working days

US: Paid Vaccination Leave

The following states have enacted paid time off from work to take vaccination

  • New York – On March 20, 2021, New York passed a law that requires all employers to provide employees up to 4 hours of paid leave for each COVID-19 vaccine injection received by the employee. This law expires on December 31, 2022.
  • Illinois – The Illinois Department of Labour has recently issued guidance on vaccination leave.  The DOL stated that an employer who requires employees to get vaccinated would mostly have to reimburse for such time, even if it occurs outside normal working hours. In cases, where the employee gets vaccinated voluntarily, it is suggested that the employers allow such employees to take paid time off which may be available to them. The guidance also provides that the employees can also use sick leave allowed to them under the State sick leave law, to get their relatives also vaccinated.
  • Nevada – The government passed Senate Bill 209 on June 9, 2021, which provides that employers with 50 or more employees shall provide employees with up to 4 hours of paid leave for the purpose of receiving a Covid 19 vaccine. Employees who receive a single dose vaccine are entitled to use only 2 consecutive hours of vaccination leave, whereas employees receiving 2 doses are entitled to use 2 consecutive hours of vaccination leave per injection. This leave is available until December 31, 2023. Exemption – Employers who provide a clinic on their premises where the employee can be vaccinated for covid 19 during their regular work hours as well as employers who are in their first 2 years of operation are exempted from the paid vaccination leave requirements.

    Canada

    Sick Leave

    In comparison with US states, the Canadian Provinces brought amendments to their respective labor codes in response to Covid-19. The amendments widen the scope of the labor codes and allow employees to take time off from work for covid-19 related reasons. Such leaves are in the labor codes are often referred to as Emergency or Infectious Diseases Leave and are unpaid.

    Examples of Covid related sick leave provisions in few provinces of Canada-

    • British Columbia –Effective May 20, 2021, employees are entitled to take up to 3 paid sick days for covid related reasons such as – 
      • Diagnosed with COVID-19
      • Waiting for COVID-19 test results
      • Need to self-isolate or self-monitor
      • Following a public health order
      • Directed to stay home by your employer because of exposure risks.

    Employees are entitled to full wages for the duration of the leave. Those employers without an existing paid sick leave program/policy will be able to seek reimbursement of up to $200 per employee per day from the government. This leave is in addition to 3 days of unpaid leave provided under the Employment Standards Act. The COVID-19-related paid leave will remain in effect until December 31, 2021.

    • Alberta – Via an Order in Council on March 17, 2020, the Alberta government amended the Employment Standards Code to allow full-time and part-time employees to take up to 14 consecutive days of unpaid leave if an employee is required to self-isolate or the employee is caring for a child or a dependent adult that is required to self-isolate.
    • Ontario – On April 29, 2021, the Covid 19 Puting Workers First Act 2021 was passed in Ontario. The Act amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to require provincially regulated employers to provide up to 3 days of paid leave for reasons related to covid 19, including that the employee is:

      • going for a COVID-19 test;

      • staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test;

      • being sick with COVID-19;

      • going to get vaccinated;

      • experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination;

      • having been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 by an employer, medical practitioner, or other authority;

      • taking care of a dependent who is sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating due to COVID-19.

    Employers will be required to pay employees up to $200 a day (or their regular rate of pay, if less than $200) for up to 3 days. Employers can then apply for reimbursement from the Ontario government of the amounts paid to the employee. The paid days of leave do not need to be taken consecutively. Employees who already receive an equal or greater amount of paid sick leave through their employer are not eligible for this benefit.

    This leave will be available until September 25, 2021, and is retroactive to absences since April 19, 2021.

    • Nova Scotia – Employees are eligible for four days of paid covid sick leave that will be introduced on May 26, 2021. Employees who need to take time off work because of COVID-19 including those who need to take time off for the following purposes:
      • To get tested for covid 19;
      • For self-isolating, while waiting for test results; or
      • Going to get vaccinated,

    Employees who cannot work remotely and miss less than 50 percent of their scheduled work time in a one-week period due to COVID-19 may be eligible. The program complements the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), which may apply after an employee has been off for 50 percent or more of their scheduled workweek.

    The sick days do not have to be taken consecutively. The program will cover eligible sick days taken between 10 May 2021 and 31 July 2021. Employers and self-employed individuals can apply for reimbursement up to a maximum of $20 per hour or $160 per day with a maximum total payment per employee fixed at $640. 

    Vaccination Leave

    • Saskatchewan has implemented a paid vaccination leave. Employees are entitled to 3 consecutive hours of paid leave during work hours to receive a COVID-19 vaccination They are also entitled to more than 3 consecutive hours of leave if the employer is also of the opinion that the circumstances require a longer break from work.
    • Alberta – The government has amended the Employment Standards Code, to provide employees with 3 consecutive hours of paid leave during work hours to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
    • British Columbia amended the emergency provisions related to Covid 19 under the BC Employment Standards Act. Employees are now entitled to 3 hours of paid leave to receive each dose of the COVID-19   vaccine. This applies to full- and part-time workers and is retroactive to April 19, 2021. This is an improvement on the change announced in early April, which provided unpaid job-protected leave for employees to take the time they need to receive the Covid 19 vaccine. This unpaid leave remains in place to supplement the new paid time off, for example, to accompany dependent family members to get vaccinated or in the event an employee needs more than 3 hours of paid leave to travel to their vaccine appointment.
      • Manitoba introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Code which will allow employees to take 3 hours of paid leave for the purpose of receiving the vaccination. The amendment also says that employees who are required to travel for more than 3 hours to receive their vaccine or who suffer from vaccine side effects will be entitled to a longer unpaid leave.
        Priyanjali
        ABOUT THE AUTHOR
        Priyanjali
        A labor and employment lawyer at Replicon who specializes in global compliance. Replicon provides award-winning products that make it easy to manage your workforce. Replicon is an industry leader in global compliance and has a dedicated team which pro-actively monitors international labor regulations for ensuring proper adherence with specific country rule requirements.
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