Memo of Support: COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Reforms
Date: March 25, 2022
Issue: COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Reforms
New York manufacturers understand the benevolent intent and purpose of the COVID-19 Paid Leave, and they have provided such leave and flexibility to workers during the pandemic. Even so, many of our members continue to struggle with significant issues such as unrecoverable costs and staffing shortages due to the COVID-19 Paid Leave.
When this law was passed back in March 2020, it was advised that we would be able to move past the illness with a collective effort over “two weeks to flatten the curve.” It is our understanding that the paid benefit was intended to be available on a single occasion. At the time, there was little discussion that workers could potentially be subjected to multiple infections or multiple governmental quarantine or isolation orders.
As you know, New York guidance no longer requires employees to have an actual governmental quarantine or isolation order to be eligible for these benefits. Rather, it is required that employees “self-attest” that they have COVID or have been in close contact with an infected person. Unfortunately, this change has made it very difficult for proper validation, and in turn creates an environment conducive to abuse. Some members are experiencing significant staffing shortages and financial challenges, as this adjustment has shifted the burden to private employers. These challenges are compounded by employees potentially qualifying for up to three periods of paid leave under New York’s guidance.
The challenges that manufacturing employers are experiencing include the following, along with suggested remedies we respectfully submit for consideration:
Payment of the COVID Paid Leave benefit constitutes a significant, unrecoverable expense for manufacturing employers, who are already experiencing significant increased costs due to inflation and other adverse market conditions in the state. New York State should enact a tax credit or other comparable financial benefit for covered private sector employers to offset these expenses.
Employees can test positively for COVID-19 via a PCR test multiple times within 90 days after an initial positive test, based on a single infection, and thereby become eligible for a second or third period of COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave benefits. Due to the nature of PCR tests, these subsequent positive tests could arise from the initial infection. PCR testing should not be permitted to determine eligibility for a second or third period of COVID-19 Paid Leave; rather, New York should consider the use of a supervised test for active and current COVID-19 infection for purposes of eligibility.
The COVID Paid Leave benefit was originally based off a then-standard 14-day quarantine or isolation period. Recently, the CDC changed its guidance. New York should make clear that the current quarantine or isolation period in effect, e.g., 5 days, is the extent of the COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave benefit for larger covered employers.
New York should eliminate the “self-attestation” process and return to requiring an actual governmental issued quarantine or isolation order for COVID-19 paid leave eligibility. With the lower current infection rates, this should be feasible for the time being.
Paying at the regular rate of pay can result at a higher pay rate per hour than if at work.
The COVID Paid Sick Leave law does not distinguish between employees who are vaccinated or unvaccinated – both are eligible. The extensive benefits potentially available constitute a vaccination disincentive, insofar as workers may conclude it is not necessary to be vaccinated because of the paid leave available if they become infected.
Employees with an illness other than COVID-19 do not get as much sick leave.
New York should consider enacting a “sunset” date for the COVID-19 Paid Leave law.