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COVID Quarantine and Leave Requirement Update: December 2021

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

COVID is still something employers are dealing with, and with circumstances around quarantine and leave availability, eligibility, and requirements still evolving with changing regulations and COVID protocol, navigating exposure and diagnosis situations can still be as confusing and complicated as ever.

To help you out this Holiday season, we’ve provided a refresher breakdown below.

What COVID leave/paid time off is required/available?

1) Required: NYS COVID Paid Sick Leave

All employers in NYS are required to provide leave to employees who are subject to quarantine or isolation orders for COVID reasons (exposure, diagnosis, symptoms, etc.).

  • Employers with under 100 employees: 5 paid days, and up to 9 additional “protected”, but unpaid days, for a total of 14 days to cover the duration of the quarantine period.
  • Employers with over 100+ employees: Up to 14 paid days to cover the duration of the quarantine period (fewer days may be required based on the circumstances).

Note that some exceptions to providing leave that is paid apply for employers with under 10 employees who have revenue under $1M annually.

2) Required: NYS Paid Sick Leave (PSL)

Remember, almost all NYS employers are required to provide paid time for sick leave as of 2021. If an employee exhausts their COVID paid sick leave eligibility, they may have the option or be required to use their earned PSL for any additional time off needed. This could include covering any additional days of a single quarantine order that aren’t required to be paid by the state (employers under 100 employees are only required to provide 5 paid days), or for whole quarantine periods where no COVID paid sick leave is available any longer.

3) Available: NYS Combined Disability and Paid Family Leave

After exhausting all required COVID Paid Sick Leave for COVID, an employee may be eligible to take a uniquely available combination Disability (DBL) and Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefit paid through the employer’s DBL carrier, which fully supplements missed wages for additional required and otherwise unpaid time needed to self-quarantine.

This could include covering any additional days of a single quarantine order that aren’t required to be paid by the state (employers under 100 employees are only required to pay for the first 5 days), or for whole quarantine periods where no COVID paid sick leave is available any longer. When made aware of these circumstances an employer should make the employee aware of their potential eligibility and right for this leave. Usually, any PSL available needs to be exhausted as well before employees can apply for this benefit.


To Note:

  • If an employer requires an employee who is not subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine to stay out of work due to COVID concerns, the employer must pay the employee for any missed time until they are made subject to a quarantine order, or they return to work.
  • Employees are not eligible for time off or benefits if they are able to work from home while quarantining.
  • You may be required to provide proof of compliance with the COVID leave requirements in audits or to defend against claims. You also should track employee usage for future eligibility reasons. With these things in mind, it is highly advisable for employers to create separate pay codes for COVID leave given to employees, which includes separate paid and unpaid COVID Sick leave codes to track any time off given- paid or not.
  • Don’t forget what you might have coded as FFCRA leave for tax credit purposes earlier in the pandemic when employees took COVID paid sick leave, is also counted and considered NY required COVID Paid Sick leave, and should be factored when considering eligibility for future leave.

What if an employee is required to quarantine more than once?

NYS regulation allows that employees may take up to three NYS COVID Paid Sick leaves if their circumstances qualify. If employees have previously taken and used NYS paid COVID sick leave based on a need to quarantine or isolate due to exposure only, and never received a positive test, the employee may be entitled to an additional, second full term of COVID paid sick leave if they are required to quarantine again in the future AND that quarantine is associated with a positive COVID test.

If at the end of this quarantine period, the employee continues to test positive for COVID, they then may be eligible for a third term of COVID paid sick leave if they need to continue to stay out. Currently, if employees take their first COVID paid sick leave term due to a quarantine associated with a positive COVID test, they are not eligible for additional use of this paid sick leave again on a separate occasion.

What about caring for a child or someone else who is required to quarantine?

1) NY Paid Sick Leave (PSL):

If an employee has earned PSL, they can be given the option, or be required to use this time for any time off needs to care for any family member who needs care due to exposure, diagnosis, etc. Remember, almost all NYS employers are required to provide paid time for sick leave as of 2021.

2) NYS Paid Family Leave (PFL):

If an employee’s minor dependent child is required to isolate or quarantine, the employee may be eligible for leave and paid benefits through PFL. When made aware of these circumstances, and in the absence of the option for the employee to work from home, an employer should make the employee aware of their potential eligibility and right for this leave. Note, an employee needs to have worked for the business for 26 weeks to be eligible for PFL, and in general, PSL should be exhausted first.

What about time off for vaccinations or vaccine recovery?

1) NYS COVID Vaccine Leave

All employers are required to provide up to 4 hours of paid leave to employees each time a vaccine dose is received, this now includes boosters. It would be reasonable to work with an employee to have them schedule vaccine receipt when it is the least disruptive to their work hours. This additional leave time covers vaccine receipt only (not recovery). Employers should have a separate pay code for this time in order to track compliance.

2) NY Paid Sick Leave (PSL)

If an employee has earned PSL, they must be given the option, or can even be required to use any earned balance of this time while they are recovering from any negative vaccine affects. Employers may also provide the use of this earned time if an employee needs to care for a child recovering from a vaccine.

When does someone have to quarantine/isolate?

Positive COVID Test (regardless of vaccination status):

  • The employee must quarantine for 10 days, no matter what, minimum.
  • Someone cannot “test out” with a negative test earlier, even if they have no symptoms. They also will need to quarantine longer than this if they continue to have symptoms.
  • Employees can exit quarantine when 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared AND 24 hours have passed with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications AND other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving (loss of taste or smell can continue as a symptom without need to quarantine still)

Exposure by an unvaccinated person:

  • The employee must quarantine for at least 7 days.
  • The employee can get out on day 8 if they test negative from a test taken after day 5 day of quarantine.
  • This is all contingent on never developing COVID symptoms, despite the exposure. If employees continue to have symptoms, they should test when symptoms appear, and quarantine for the full term.

Exposure by a fully vaccinated person:

  • If someone is vaccinated and exposed to a COVID-positive person, they do not need to quarantine at all, if they do not have any symptoms.
  • If the employee begins to have symptoms, they need to quarantine until they take a test and get results that are negative. If this test is negative even though symptoms continue, they can be allowed to return to work, but employers may want to consider they stay out until there are no symptoms to be extra cautious.

Symptoms without exposure:

  • Unvaccinated employees who develop symptoms without known exposure should be tested and stay out until those results are received.
  • Vaccinated people with symptoms but no known exposure technically do not need to test or quarantine, but it may be wise to treat this as an exposure.


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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Step Out Buffalo Business

Step Out Buffalo Business is a business focused publication featuring tips and tricks for entrepreneurs and small business people in Buffalo & Western New York by the team at Step Out Buffalo. We write what we know and when we don't know, we ask an expert in the field. We've gained our knowledge through experience growing businesses in various industries.

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