While many employers consider whether to incentivize, encourage, or even require their employees to obtain COVID-19 vaccines, New York has just passed a bill requiring employers to provide employees with “a sufficient period of time”, up to a maximum of four hours of paid leave per shot, to obtain COVID-19 vaccines.
If an employee gets a vaccine that consists of two separate shots (like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine), employees will be eligible for up to four hours of paid time off for each injection. Employees would be paid at their regular rates of pay for up to the four hours to get vaccinated.
While the bill has not yet been signed by Governor Cuomo, he is expected to sign it shortly and it will take effect immediately upon his signature. The law would expire December 31, 2022, so if it is signed it will remain in effect until the end of next year.
In its stated “justification”, the bill takes a clear pro-vaccine approach, explaining: “Granting public and private employees official time off to receive the vaccine without having to exhaust their other piles of leave will take us one step closer to achieving herd immunity and ending the war against COVID-19.” As referenced, the law does not permit employers to require employees to take other leaves (e.g. sick time, vacation time) first, before taking these hours of paid time to get vaccinated. There are still a number of open questions and ambiguities with this law, and the state may put out additional guidance (as it has done with other COVID-19 related laws and regulations). Open issues include whether this time may also be used for any illness or side effects that result from the shots; what proof, if any, employers may ask for from employees to show the employee got vaccinated; and whether the employer has any say over the timing or scheduling of vaccine appointments.
For employers struggling with the decision on whether to incentivize obtaining vaccines, this bill may be welcome as it now requires paid time for vaccine appointments. But as with any new law, there will be unanticipated and logistical challenges to the administration. Since the law will become effective immediately upon signature by the governor, companies should start to prepare policies, practices, and logistics to ensure compliance and get ready to implement this law in New York.