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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.
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 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 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.
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’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 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:
This sick leave may be used until 4 weeks after the official termination or suspension of the public health emergency.
On May 28, 2021, Massachusetts passed a law requiring Massachusetts employers to provide job-protected paid leave to their employees for certain reasons related to COVID-19 (the “Leave”). This is effective June 7, 2021. 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:
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.
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 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.
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 with up to 4 hours of paid leave for each COVID-19 vaccine injection received by the employee. This law expires on December 31, 2022.
New York City employers retroactive to November 2, 2021, are required to provide employees who are parents or legal guardians of a child with 4 hours of paid COVID-19 child vaccination time, per injection and per child (“Child Vaccination Leave”). Child Vaccination Leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay, without any credits or allowances. The law expires on December 31, 2022.
The Governor of New York City announced that all New York City employers, regardless of size, will be required to impose COVID-19 vaccination mandates on all employees by December 27, 2021. The mandate applies to in-person employees who are in a workplace with other co-workers. It doesn’t give unvaccinated employees the option to get tested regularly. (Please note – More guidelines on the mandatory vaccination will be provided by the government of New York in the upcoming days).
- 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.
District of Columbia – On Nov. 18, 2021, Washington, D.C., amended the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 (ASSLA) via “COVID Vaccination Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2021” to provide paid time off for COVID-19 vaccinations and recovery.
The Emergency Act requires D.C. employers to provide up to 2 hours of paid leave per injection of either the employee or a child under the age of 18 who lives with the employee. The employers must also provide vaccination recovery leave. This consists of up to 8 hours of leave during the 24-hour period following the 2-hour vaccination leave period. Employers must provide up to 48 hours of combined vaccination and recovery leave in a year. Initial injections, second doses, and boosters are all covered by the law.
Employees are eligible for this leave if they began working for the employer at least 15 days before the requested leave. This leave supplements the paid leave already provided under ASSLA. It also must be offered in addition to any other paid leave an employer provides an employee under an existing leave policy unless the existing leave policy exclusively and expressly provides COVID-19 vaccination and recovery leave in an amount equal to or greater than the amount provided by the amended ASSLA and does not otherwise reduce an employee’s available paid leave. Employees taking such leave must be compensated at their regular rate of pay.
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 Putting 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 July 31, 2022, 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.
Manitoba – The Manitoba Pandemic Sick Leave program provides employers with up to $600 per employee for up to 5 non-consecutive days of COVID-19 related sick leave. Eligible sick leave related to COVID-19 includes testing, vaccinations, and side effects, self-isolation due to COVID-19 symptoms, or care for a loved one in any of the previously mentioned circumstances. The program will expire on September 25, 2021.
Yukon – Under Yukon’s Paid Sick Leave Rebate program, employees may receive up to 10 days of paid leave due to COVID-19 (“Yukon COVID Leave”), payable by and reimbursable to the employer up to a maximum of $378.13 daily, per employee. Employees may take leave if they are self-isolating, sick, or caring for other household members due to covid related reasons. The leave does not have to be taken in a consecutive manner. The program will expire on September 30, 2021.
- 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.