The Rundown on New York COVID Leave for Employers

New York began offering coronavirus paid leave in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL) updated and expanded New York COVID leave guidelines in January 2021. If you’re an employer in New York, read on to learn more about the state’s COVID leave expansion.

What is New York COVID leave?

New York COVID leave, also called the NYS COVID-19 Sick Leave Law, requires some NY employers to offer paid or unpaid time off to employees who have to follow a mandatory or precautionary quarantine order. Quarantine orders include ones issued by the state, Department of Health, a local health board, or other government office.

Employees are eligible for quarantine leave if they or their minor dependent child are subject to mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. 

Which employers must provide NY COVID leave?

So, which employers must provide New York COVID leave? The amount of paid or unpaid leave an employer must provide depends on the size and/or revenue of the business: 

  1. Employers with 10 or fewer employees with a net income of less than $1 million in 2019 must offer unpaid quarantine leave
    1. Unpaid leave must last for the employee’s entire quarantine order 
    2. Employees can apply for and receive NY Paid Family Leave and disability benefits if they receive unpaid NY COVID leave 
    3. The maximum weekly amount for an employee is $2,884.62
  2. Companies with 10 or fewer employees and more than $1 million in net income in 2019 OR employers with 11 – 99 employees must offer five days of paid quarantine leave.
    1. Employers pay employees at their regular rate of pay
    2. After five days of paid leave, employees must apply for paid family leave and disability benefits
    3. The maximum weekly amount an employee can receive is $2,884.62
  3. If you have 100 or more employees, you must provide 14 days of paid quarantine leave.
    1. Pay the regular rate of pay for each eligible employee

Employer type and leave type. Employers with 1-10 employees and less than $1 million in net income in 2019 must offer unpaid leave for the entire quarantine order. Employers with 1-10 employees and more than $1 million in net income in 2019 must offer five days paid leave at the employee's regular pay rate. Employers will 11-99 employees must offer five days of paid leave at the employee's regular pay rate. Employers will 100 or more employees must offer 14 days paid leave at the employee's regular pay rate.

Benefits under quarantine leave are separate from other paid sick leave laws. Quarantine leave is only available for the time of official COVID-related quarantine orders. New York COVID leave does not currently have an expiration date. 

When is an employee not eligible for New York quarantine leave?

The New York quarantine leave gives employers the right to deny paid leave to employees in certain circumstances. This includes:

  • Asymptomatic employees who are physically able to work remotely or through other means
  • Employees with quarantine orders due to voluntary travel to another country with a level two or three health notice from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
  • Employees who travel to a state that does not border New York if the travel is not employment-related
  • Leave taken due to school closures not part of mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation orders

Employees who travel for non-business purposes are ineligible to receive quarantine leave if they travel for 24 or more hours. 

Expanded New York COVID leave: New rules to keep in mind

Again, New York state expanded its coronavirus leave rules in January 2021. The new guidelines for the New York quarantine leave expanded employer obligations. In addition to the original rules, the new guidelines set limits for employees and employers. 

Here is what the new guidelines include:

  1. Additional paid leave for employees
  2. Quarantine leave limits 
  3. Testing guidelines for return-to-work procedures
  4. Leave for COVID-19 vaccinations

Additional quarantine leave for employees

The new guidelines for New York COVID leave require employers to provide paid leave to employees who were not previously eligible (e.g., employees who get the vaccine). And, employees can now receive additional NY COVID leave if they are subject to more than one mandatory quarantine. 

Paid leave is required if employees are not allowed to return to the workplace for safety reasons (e.g., exposure to someone who is sick but untested). Exposure does not have to occur in the workplace for an employee to be eligible for NY COVID leave. 

Quarantine leave limits

Under the COVID leave expansion, New York limits the use of quarantine leave to three times per employee. Employees can only take leave a second or third paid leave if they receive a positive COVID-19 test. The first instance does not require a positive COVID-19 test result. 

New York does not require employers to collect COVID testing documentation from employees. However, you can require that employees provide documentation from a medical provider or testing facility. 

If you perform COVID-19 testing through your workplace, you cannot require your employees to have a secondary COVID-19 test. 

Testing guidelines for return-to-work procedures

Under the expanded leave, employees do not need to produce a negative test to return to work following mandatory quarantine. Employees also do not need to be tested at all to return to work. However, employees may choose to test at the end of their quarantine leave. 

If the employee tests positive at the end of the leave period, they must continue self-isolating. An employee must take COVID leave consecutively if they test positive at the end of the leave period. 

Any employee who returns to work and later tests positive for COVID-19 is required to quarantine. Employees are able to receive additional quarantine leave if they test positive later on. 

Leave for COVID-19 vaccinations

As of March 12, 2021, the state of New York requires employers to offer paid leave to employees receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. Employees receiving leave for a COVID-19 vaccination: 

  • Must be paid at their regular rate of pay
  • Are limited to four hours per dose (eight total hours for two-dose vaccines)
  • Cannot use vaccine leave along with other types of leave (e.g., New York paid sick leave)

Collective bargaining agreements may require employers to offer more hours of paid leave to receive the vaccine. 

Do employees need to apply for quarantine leave?

Employees do not have to apply for quarantine leave. As an employer, you are required to offer quarantine leave to your employees if they qualify. 

If an employee runs out of sick days, they need to apply for combined paid family leave and disability COVID-19 quarantine benefits. An employee who applies for paid family leave and disability benefits needs to notify their employer. 

If an employee needs to apply for PFL and disability benefits, they must complete the Request for COVID-19 quarantine leave form and submit the form to you. Complete the employer sections on the form and return it to the employee within three business days. 

Employees must submit requests to their insurance provider no later than 30 days from their first day of leave. 

For more information on New York’s COVID leave rules and requirements, check out the state’s website

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This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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