Massachusetts Employers Must Provide COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

AdminAssist July 23, 2021
7-minute read
Notebook on a desk with writing that says employee benefits

Nearly a year and a half since Covid-19 hit the shores of America, it continues to wreak havoc on the nation. Currently, the Delta variant is infecting tens of thousands.

In Massachusetts, the number of Covid-19 cases has nearly tripled on a week-to-week case. Each day, hundreds lose their life to the coronavirus.

The good news is that the federal and state government are here to help. In Massachusetts, residents do not have to fear lost income from contracting the virus.

Instead, the state government passed generous paid sick benefits to help infected workers. Read on to learn everything you need to know about paid sick leave for Covid-19. Explore how paid sick leave in Massachusetts works and what you need to receive benefits.

What Are the First Steps?

The first step in the process is to get tested and see a doctor. Of course, your physical well-being is more important than money, benefits, or any other factor. While you recuperate from Covid-19, rest assured that your financial services company will handle the administrative work.

After you or a family member tests positive for Covid-19, you should notify your employer. Notification is important for contact tracing and other efforts to minimize community spread.

Your employer needs to warn other employees that you may have been in contact with. They may ask coworkers to quarantine, telework, or get a Covid-19 test depending on the circumstances.

Am I Eligible for Paid Leave?

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Massachusetts state government passed legislation to help employees. It is called the Covid-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) Act.

Eligibility for the paid leave program is straightforward. If you are receiving care or treatment for Covid-19 symptoms, the program is applicable to you. It is also available to Massachusetts residents who are recovering from side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine.

You may also be eligible if you are caring for a family member with Covid-19. The paid leave benefits are extended to those under a quarantine order from an official entity.

A number of different groups can request an official quarantine. A health care provider or the employer can call for quarantine. Federal, state, and local government officials can also request quarantine.

Telework is a factor for paid leave benefits. If the employee has the ability to telework, it may hinder his or her ability to collect the benefit. It depends on the circumstances of their case and whether they are physically able to telework.

What Are the Law’s Basics?

The law is in place until September 30th, 2021. This means that eligible employees can apply up until this point.

However, there is a chance that the program ends prior to this. The law was funded with $75 million. If the funding is exhausted prior to the end of the fiscal year, the program ceases earlier.

Another basic is that you are entitled to up to 40 hours of paid leave for Covid-19. This is true for all full-time employees. For part-time employees, the number of paid leave hours depends on the average that you work per week.

There are some other protections in the law for employees. For example, employers cannot force their employees to use regular sick or vacation time for a Covid-19 issue. Also, employers cannot force their employees to seek out a replacement worker while they are out.

Another employee protection is a provision against any retaliatory behavior. The employer cannot hold the paid leave against the employee for a bonus or raise determination. This specific protection extends to promotions as well.

Lastly, an employer cannot double-dip with this law and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). If the employer received benefits under FFCRA, they are no longer eligible to seek reimbursement under this law.

Are Employers Reimbursed for Paid Leave?

This program does not require employers to incur costs to allow paid leave for Covid-19. Instead, the employer can apply for reimbursement with the state of Massachusetts.

There is a cap of $850 per week on the paid leave program. This cap applies to each employee.

The employer does need to issue each infected employee with a request form. This form collects basic information such as name and the reason that leave is requested.

The employee needs to verify that they cannot telework on this form. Also included on the form is the date on which the leave is being taken.

The state law does afford the employer the right to collect pertinent health documentation. This means that the employer can request verification from the doctor that the employee or family member tested positive for Covid-19. While this information must be treated as confidential, it is still necessary for the reimbursement process.

How to Apply for EPSL Reimbursement?

It is easy to apply for reimbursement under the Massachusetts EPSL program. You simply have to create an account on the state government’s website. The EPSL reimbursement request is generated under the MassTaxConnect section of the state website.

There is a special area in which you can register for EPSL reimbursement program. On a summary tab, the website provides you with a list of your tax accounts. Remember, MassTaxConnect is already synced with your business for income tax filings.

Next, there is a Returns hyperlink. This is where you will select a return to file your reimbursement under.

You need to know the end of the week at which the EPSL was taken. Also required is each employee you are seeking reimbursement for. The website is going to ask for employee information like social security or tax identification numbers.

In addition, Massachusetts wants to know how many hours of leave were taken and the payment made. Lastly, the state is going to ask for details about the employee’s schedule. This is all to verify that the employee was afforded the full benefits they were eligible for.

Covid-19 Paid Sick Leave Is Helping Employees

There is no question that Covid-19 paid sick leave is helping employees. This is a difficult time and health officials do not want employees risking community spread to earn wages.

Programs like EPSL allow businesses to stay open and employees to pay their bills while recovering. If you are looking for accounting services to help with this paid sick leave program, contact us today to get started.