Go to podcast
by Clare Morin
HR Trends

Paid leave during a pandemic: The state response


HR compliance is more complex than ever, particularly with leave and absence management. In this episode, Daris Freeman and Ellen McCann give an overview of paid leave laws, both pre-pandemic and those being signed into law amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Key takeaways:

  • Prior to the pandemic, many states and jurisdictions had existing employer-mandated paid leave laws. (01:25)
  • States and local jurisdictions have stepped up to provide paid leave for workers due to COVID-related reasons . These fall into two key areas: 1) Protections for employees in organizations with more than 500 employees that are not subject to the federal FFCRA and 2) States, such as California, that have passed broader legislation that applies to all employers and employees. (04:30)
  • States and jurisdictions are passing laws to provide paid leave to those impacted by COVID-19. This is an active space with nearly one new law appearing every week. (05:30)
  • Colorado has passed three laws in one: 1) The federal FFCRA equivalent for 2020 for larger employers and 2) a broader paid leave provision that has two components: a) paid leave for employees or family members who have an illness and school closures, and b) up to two weeks of additional leave if there is public health emergency. (05:55)
  • There is also an unpaid leave dimension to this, as several states have amended existing laws to provide job protected, unpaid leave. Employers need to understand any applicable unpaid leave obligations, as well as paid leave obligations, to be compliant with all employment laws and regulations. (07:55)
  • Best practices: At Unum we have policies that address state-level paid leave laws where employees work. We have supplemented that with a COVID-19 specific policy that incorporates all the different jurisdictions and states that have specific COVID-19 requirements for leave. (09:57) 
  • Laws change almost weekly. One of your best resources are state and city webpages, as these are always up to date. Consult with your own legal counsel also to make sure you are capturing all the obligations and remain in compliance with all applicable laws. (11:13)

Daris Freeman
Assistant Vice President, Legal Counsel, Unum's Employment Law Group 

As Assistant Vice President, Legal Counsel for Unum, Daris’s primary responsibility is to support Unum’s Absence Management Center which administers FMLA, paid leave, ADA and over 200 complementary state laws. Daris partners with the operation and their clients to develop compliant solutions for their unique absence management challenges. 

 Ellen McCann
Assistant Vice President, Legal Counsel, Unum's Employment Law Group 

Ellen McCann is an acclaimed national speaker on leave management issues, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She is also a certified trainer for the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and continuing education (CE) credit. 

More resources:
Ep. 16: Best practices in COVID-19 return-to-work planning
Melissa K. Peters, Special Counsel at Littler Mendelson, shares key insights from Littler’s COVID-19 Return-to-Work Survey of 1,000 U.S. employers with best practices and key strategies to help employers build and implement a return-to-work plan.

Read now

Webinar: Leave management in a post-pandemic world
As employers update or expand their leave benefits for the new future formed by the coronavirus pandemic, what key best practices should they keep in mind?

Watch now


Episode 21

by Clare Morin