April 14, 2021
During the first quarter of 2021, federal and state activity surrounding paid leave was geared towards mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers in California, Colorado, New York and Pennsylvania extended or enacted new requirements to provide COVID-19 leave.
With the pandemic occupying lawmakers’ attention, federal and state activity on general purpose paid sick leave (PSL) and paid family leave has been more muted, although lawmakers in New Mexico and Virginia recently enacted PSL requirements. Activity on the federal level could pick up soon with some individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 or lost family members directly advocating with the current administration and federal lawmakers to include a national PSL requirement in upcoming infrastructure legislation.
We summarize recent activity and provide additional information below.
COVID-19/Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)
Federal legislation requiring employers to provide pandemic leave in 2021 is unlikely, as Congress let leave provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) applying to smaller employers (500 or fewer employees) lapse at the end of 2020. Congress did extend tax credits to certain employers who are voluntarily providing leave until the end of September.
In a handful of states and localities (California (state and local), Colorado, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) lawmakers enacted laws requiring employers to provide 80 hours of leave to full-time employees, defined as working > 40 hours per week, and a pro-rated amount to others for use related to the pandemic. New York lawmakers, who also enacted a pandemic leave requirement in 2020, recently went a step further by requiring employers to provide up to 4 hours of leave per COVID-19 vaccination thus becoming the first state in the country to do so.
Massachusetts is currently considering a paid leave law, with a focus on COVID-19 leave provisions, compensation rates for different forms of leave, and tax credits to offset some employer costs. We will continue monitoring this legislation.
Paid Sick Leave
The 117th Congress has not yet introduced the Healthy Families Act, a bill that would require employers to provide PSL nationwide. As noted above, that could change soon.
New Mexico and Virginia recently enacted laws requiring employers to provide PSL. Both laws are effective 7/1/2021. New Mexico’s requirement applies broadly, whereas Virginia’s applies only to certain home health workers. Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois (currently without PSL requirements) are the most likely to enact such requirements in 2021.
At the local level, there have been no new PSL mandates. In Texas, a federal court struck down a Dallas PSL requirement and a state appeals court upheld a ruling preventing a PSL requirement in San Antonio from becoming effective.
Paid Family Leave
Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Rosa (D-CT) have re-introduced the FAMILY Act. The bill would create a national paid family leave program that, as currently drafted, would not pre-empt state and local requirements. The FAMILY Act would provide employees with up to 12 weeks (60 days) of paid FMLA. However, lack of bipartisan support may make it less likely that it will become law during the 117th Congress.
Currently, there are 10 states with laws that provide or will provide paid family and medical leave. In 2021, the states most likely to enact new paid family and medical leave laws would be Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico and Virginia. These bills would provide employees with paid leave of 4 to 20 weeks. We are monitoring these states and others for further developments.
Resources for Members
For more details on the laws and their requirements, please visit the Business Group developed resources on the right.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns please contact us.
We provide this material for informational purposes only; it is not a substitute for legal advice.