The world has been dealing with the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic for two years now. It has been a universal challenge to pivot around changing plans, quarantine requirements, and recommendations for staying healthy.
Employers everywhere have had their work cut out for them when it comes to staying on top of these rules, regulations, and recommendations. As we look to the future and the possibility of another variant impacting our daily lives, here are some frequently asked questions you may get from your employees and how you can direct them so everyone stays healthy.
When do I have to quarantine or isolate?
Guidelines for quarantine and isolation depend on a variety of factors such as exposure, symptoms, and vaccination status as we will outline below. When counting days, day 0 is the first day you had symptoms or the day you had a positive COVID test. If you have been positive for COVID within the last 90 days, you do not need to isolate or quarantine unless you experience symptoms.
If you test positive for COVID or you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID (no matter what your vaccination status is):
- Positive test but no symptoms: isolate for 5 days. If still asymptomatic after 5 days, you may leave isolation, but should wear a mask for 5 more days.
- Symptoms: Isolate for 5 days. If symptoms have reduced and you have been fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication, you may leave isolation but wear a mask for 5 more days. NOTE: If you have lost your sense of taste or smell, these may persist for some time.
- An additional test is not required to leave quarantine after day 5. If you wish to retest, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends taking an antigen test.
If you are not fully up-to-date on vaccinations (either unvaccinated, OR received the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna over 6 months ago and not boosted, OR received the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and not boosted) and exposed to COVID:
- Quarantine for a minimum of 5 days. If within that time, there are no symptoms or you test negative, you may leave isolation but wear a mask for 5 more days.
- If you test positive during that time or exhibit symptoms, follow the protocol above.
If you are up-to-date on vaccinations (have been boosted, OR received the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna within the last 6 months, OR received the primary series of J&J within the last 2 months) and exposed to COVID:
- If you experience no symptoms, no quarantine or isolation is necessary. Wear a mask for 10 days.
- If you experience symptoms or test positive, follow the first protocol.
What paid time off is required or available due to COVID?
As of 2021, all employers in New York State are required to provide leave for any employee who must quarantine or isolate due to COVID exposure, symptoms, or diagnosis. If an employee uses all of their COVID paid leave, they may be required to use their earned paid sick leave for any additional time they may need.
The paid time off requirements include:
- Under 100 employees: 5 paid days and up to 9 unpaid but protected days for a total of 14 days.
- 100 or more employees: Up to 14 paid days depending on the duration of the quarantine period as laid out above.
NOTE: If you have under 10 employees and have annual revenue of under $1M, you qualify for exceptions to mandatory paid leave.
If an employee uses all of their COVID paid sick leave, they may be eligible for a combination disability and paid family leave benefit that is paid through the employer’s disability carrier. This benefit would cover missed wages for any additional time needed to self-quarantine. If an employer is made aware of an employee’s circumstances that would qualify them, they must make the employee aware of their potential eligibility for this benefit.
What if I have to quarantine or isolate more than once?
If an employee’s circumstances qualify, New York State regulations allow them to take up to three (3) paid sick leaves. These circumstances are:
- You have taken paid COVID sick leave based on a need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID exposure only.
- An additional second full term of COVID sick leave is available if you later test positive and must quarantine again.
- An additional third full term of COVID sick leave is available if you continue to test positive after your quarantine period has ended.
NOTE: If you take your first COVID sick leave term because you tested positive and had to quarantine, you are not eligible for additional paid sick leave on a separate occasion.
What if I have to care for a child or family member who must quarantine?
If a family member needs care due to exposure or a positive diagnosis and it requires quarantine time, they can use any earned paid sick leave that they have.
If your minor dependent child is required to quarantine, you may be eligible for paid leave through NYS’ Paid Family Leave. Remember: you must have worked for the company for at least 26 weeks to be eligible for paid family leave.
Can I get paid time off to get vaccinated or recover from the side effects of the vaccine?
Employers are required to provide a maximum of four (4) hours of paid leave to accommodate employees getting vaccines and boosters. These hours cover getting the vaccine only; it does not cover recovery from any side effects. It is recommended that vaccines be scheduled when it is least disruptive to work hours.
In addition, if employees have earned paid sick leave, they can use that time for any side effects from the vaccine. Employers must also provide this time for parents taking care of a minor child experiencing side effects from the vaccine.
For more information on these requirements or to see updates as they become available, visit Complete Payroll’s blog.