COVID-19: Federal, State and Local Leave Issues

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal, state and local governments passed a series of laws providing leave benefits to employees for COVID-19-related reasons, most of which expired on September 30, 2021.

Federal Leave Laws

First, the federal government passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) on March 18, 2020. The FFCRA created short-term expanded employee benefits and protections related to COVID-19 through the end of 2020. It required employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.

The FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020. However, subsequent federal legislation extended the ability of employers to claim reimbursement tax credits for voluntarily providing leave under the FFCRA up through September 30, 2021. Congress did not extend the FFCRA beyond this deadline, thus, as of September 30, 2021, the FFCRA tax credits have expired.

State Leave Laws

  • California followed the federal legislation with COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) legislation, which originally expired at the same time as the federal FFCRA at the end of 2020. In March 2021, Governor Newsom signed SB 95, which created a new supplemental paid sick leave program requiring employers with more than 25 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for qualifying COVID-19-related reasons It was retroactive to January 1, 2021 and expired on September 30, 2021.

At the time of publication, California has not extended SPSL, thus it is expired. However, an employee who is taking SPSL as of September 30 must be allowed to continue their leave beyond September 30 until the employee either exhausts their leave balance or no longer has a qualifying reason to take the leave. Employers can review the California Labor Commissioner’s guidance for further information on SPSL.

Local Leave Laws

In addition to federal and state leave programs, local governments also passed their own COVID-19 paid sick leave ordinances, some of which extend past the federal and state expiration dates. Additionally, cities and counties are also adopting separate ordinances providing paid leave for vaccine related reasons.

For example, the following jurisdictions have supplemental paid sick leave and/or vaccine leave ordinances that extend beyond the federal and state deadlines noted above:

  • Employers should check their local ordinances to determine if any local COVID-19 supplemental sick leave or vaccine leave requirements apply to them.
  • Visit HRCalifornia’s Local Ordinances section for detailed information on local employment-related ordinances in California, including COVID-19-related ordinances.