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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 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:
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 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.
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 – On March 24, 2020, the British Columbia government made two changes to the BC Employment Standards Act to provide workers with unpaid leave due to illness and injury related to covid. During this public health emergency, employees can take this job-protected leave for the reasons above as long as they require the leave.
- 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.
- 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
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
- self-isolating due to COVID-19