Philadelphia Enacts New COVID-19 Sick Leave Law

In the midst of changing mask requirements and many people believing that the pandemic is now “over,” the City of Philadelphia has enacted a new COVID-19 sick leave law. On March 9, 2022, Mayor Kenney signed into law an amended version of the 2021 Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance (the “Ordinance”) requiring covered employers to provide paid sick leave for employees who test positive for COVID-19. This law will stay in effect until December 31, 2023.

For Philadelphia employers, this may sound familiar. Philadelphia had a COVID-19 sick leave law which expired on June 10, 2021. Under the new ordinance, leave is available if the employee is unable to work due to one or more of the following reasons:

  1. The employee would jeopardize the health of others because of COVID-19 exposure or the employee exhibiting symptoms, regardless of whether the employee is diagnosed with or has tested positive for COVID-19, or must care for a family member in the same circumstances;
  2. The employee needs to isolate and care for him or herself because the employee or family member has been diagnosed with, has tested positive for, or is exhibiting symptoms of COVID 19 or needs to seek or obtain a medical diagnosis or treatment for symptoms of an illness “related to COVID-19”;
  3. The employee needs to care for a family member who is self-isolating due to having a COVID-19 diagnosis, a positive test, or symptoms of COVID-19 or where the family member needs to seek or obtain a medical diagnosis or treatment for symptoms of an illness “related to COVID-19”;
  4. The employee needs care for a child if the child’s school or usual care provider is unavailable due to precautions taken in response to COVID-19; and/or
  5. The employee needs to obtain vaccination, including a booster, related to COVID-19 or recover from any side effect related to that vaccination.

There are five key differences between the current ordinance and the one which expired in 2021. First, the ordinance covers more employers. It applies to all Philadelphia employers with 25 or more employees, whereas the previous version applied only to employers with 50 or more employees. Second, the ordinance eliminates the requirement that employees be employed for at least 90 days to receive this leave. Third, the ordinance reduces the amount of COVID-19-related sick leave that a Philadelphia employer is required to provide to employees who work at least 40 hours per week from 80 hours to 40 hours. Fourth, leave is available for the employee to obtain the booster shot, not simply the initial vaccination(s), and to recover from any “side effects” from the vaccination. Fifth, employers who offer at least 120 hours of paid leave (whether identified as sick leave or otherwise) in 2022 that can be used for the reasons set forth in the ordinance need not offer additional leave. Under the 2021 version, employers had to offer 160 hours of qualifying leave to avoid additional requirements.

While the pandemic may be ebbing, Philadelphia employers should be mindful of this new leave entitlement. For any questions about the ordinance, other COVID-19 regulations, or sick leave in general, please feel free to reach out to any member of our national COVID-19 Response Team.