New York State earlier this month enacted a law that gives employees up to four hours of paid leave to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The measure went into effect March 12 and applies to most employers in New York State.
Employees can take up to four hours of paid leave per vaccine shot. However, it does not retroactively apply to employees who took time off to receive a vaccination before March 12, though employers are allowed to do so.
The law expires Dec. 31, 2022.
New York Paid Time Off for the Vaccine
New York has issued a set of FAQs for employers regarding the new law.
Among the items of note:
- It does not apply if an employee receives a greater number of hours pursuant to a collectively bargained agreement or as otherwise authorized by the employer to be vaccinated for COVID-19
- Employees must receive their regular rate of pay
- Employers cannot take adverse action against workers who use the paid leave
- Workers cannot use the leave to assist others in getting the vaccine
- Employers may not substitute other paid leave for the vaccine paid leave
- Employers may require notice from employees before taking paid leave
Lastly, the law does not prevent an employer from requiring proof that a worker received the COVID-19 vaccine. But the FAQs from New York officials say companies should consider confidentiality issues before requesting proof.
Employers Already Encouraging the Vaccine
While the law in New York State creates a new set of paid leave requirements for employers, many large companies are already offering incentives for employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
That can come in the form of cash payments, gift cards or paid time off. One large employer even offers free ride-share service for workers to make the trip to the vaccine location.
But for employers that opt to incentivize employees to get the vaccine, other issues can arise. What about employees who refuse to get it? What about future pandemics or even the seasonal flu?
There are several items to consider, though in most instances employers can require the COVID-19 vaccine.
While there are positive signs regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, employment law issues continue to crop up.
From hazard pay to paid leave and continued guidance from jurisdictions at all levels of government, it will be some time before these compliance issues are in the rearview mirror. Employers must continue to monitor the latest laws and regulations, consult with counsel and refine policies in the months ahead.