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All The Spring COVID Updates Employers Need To Know Now

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This post was written by Emily Martin, Owner of Ally HR Partners LLC

A lot has developed even just this month between the COVID relief bill, NYS changes, and CDC guidance updates. To keep you sane, here’s a summary of what you should know right now as a NYS employer.

1) For exposure to a known COVID-positive person, employees must quarantine for 10 days, regardless of test results or symptoms

  • Employees exposed who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not have to quarantine or get tested again as long as they do not develop new symptoms.
  • Employees exposed who do develop symptoms again within 3 months of having COVID may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.
  • Employees who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID are not required to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against the disease and show no symptoms.
  • You can read more about all circumstances on the CDC website here. Note that NYS may have different guidelines in some circumstances, which supersede CDC when they are more cautionary.

2) For positive tests, employees must quarantine a minimum 10 days regardless of symptoms. If an employee is symptom-free after day 10 and has not had symptoms for 24-48 hours, they may return before day 14

3) You have to give employees paid and/or protected leave for missed time for quarantining and/or testing positive

  • More information on this can be found in our previous article here.

4) After April 1st, employees no longer need to quarantine after domestic travel

  • We still recommend screening procedures to monitor these employees for symptoms upon return. Don’t have screening procedures in place? We’re happy to help.

5) You have to give employees up to 4 hours of special paid leave to get vaccinated

  • This is effective now and covers both doses (where applicable), as well potential future booster shots, with the law staying in effect until Dec 31st, 2022.
  • NEW as of 3/29/21: Additional guidance has been provided regarding employer obligations and rights with this leave. They include:
    • Employers can require proof of vaccination in order for the leave to be paid. Employers should still make sure that this is being done in a way that protects individuals’ rights to confidentiality, etc.
    • The law does not apply retroactively.Only employees receiving vaccinations on or after March 12, 2021 are eligible for this paid leave.
    • Paid leave may only be used for the employee’s own vaccination, and only in order to receive the vaccination. This does not cover time missed because of adverse effects, taking a loved one to get the vaccine, etc.
    • Employers may require some notice for when an employee plans to take this leave and receive the vaccine.

6) Employers can elect to voluntarily provide Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and Emergency Paid Family Leave (EFMLA)consistent with CARES/FFCRA past April 1st, but this means resetting the 80 hour (10 day) allotment for all employees

  • This also would open up EPSL to be used for new reasons, including getting the vaccine (required by NYS anyway), but also vaccine side effects, and caring for someone else subject to quarantine.
  • Although this expansion of eligibility for employers to claim the tax credit for COVID-related absences, many of which are required anyway by NYS, could be a way for employers to recoup the cost of this supplemental paid time off for employees, if you have a staff population that’s widely vaccinated, or has already used most COVID-leave related time, you may want to forego voluntarily extending this additional paid leave at the risk of employees taking even more time (and abusing time), even though it’s subsidized through tax credits. If you’re unsure at all about what to do here, we recommend reaching out to discuss your situation and what might be best for you.

7) As a new rule, you may be required to offer a COBRA premium subsidy to employees who were involuntarily terminated previously that are still eligible for COBRA coverage or will be in the future

  • We encourage you to contact your broker to ensure you are staying compliant with all employer-required actions as a result of this change. To read more for yourself, you can also check out this article.

This post was written by Emily Martin, Owner of Ally HR Partners LLC, a Buffalo-based HR consulting firm that helps small businesses identify and implement custom solutions to their people problems and opportunities. Often a business’ #1 expense, Ally HR Partners believes your people should be your #1 asset. Through an integrative partnership approach, Ally becomes your internal expert on all things HR including compliance assurance, performance management, and strategic HR initiatives designed to make the most out of your Human Capital. For more information about how Ally can work for you, visit AllyHRPartners.com

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