Article – USA: Fewer Jurisdictions Require Paid Leave for COVID-19

States and localities are backing off their requirements that employers give paid leave to workers with COVID-19 after death and hospitalization rates have fallen dramatically since the height of the pandemic.

Three states—Arizona, Colorado and New Jersey—and some cities still require paid leave for COVID-19 specifically or for a public health emergency, according to a recent report from Mercer. Five states and Washington, D.C., previously had such requirements, but they have expired.

Nevada, New York and Washington, D.C., still require businesses to offer paid time off for employees to get themselves or their children vaccinated for COVID-19.

“We’re just seeing some scaling back of these [requirements] overall,” said Stephanie Mills-Gallan, an attorney with Littler in Milwaukee. “We do have a scattering of localities where there are paid-COVID-leave laws in effect. … We didn’t have a ton to begin with, and they’re slowly getting picked off. At this point, it’s pretty few and far between.”

In California, the mandate to provide paid COVID-19 sick leave ended on Dec. 31. Gov. Gavin Newsom said California’s COVID-19 state of emergency will end on Feb. 28. Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco are among the cities that still have local laws requiring paid leave for COVID-19 or a public health emergency.

Although COVID-19-specific mandates are decreasing, Rich Glass, a principal in Mercer’s law and policy group in Dallas, expects to see more states and cities adopt new laws requiring paid or unpaid leave during any public health emergency. Monkeypox and air pollution from wildfires are recent examples that sparked a declaration of a nationwide public health emergency.

The federal government renewed its declaration of a public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic on Jan. 11. Mills-Gallan said the federal government is likely to let that status expire in April, and many state and local governments are likely to follow that lead.

There’s no national mandate for paid or unpaid leave for COVID-19, but the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) could apply to an employee who is seriously ill with COVID-19, depending on the severity of their symptoms and treatment. The FMLA requires unpaid leave for serious health conditions. Some states and localities require paid sick leave for those conditions.