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Philadelphia Expands Paid Sick Leave Access for Workers Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

October 15, 2020

The City of Philadelphia has amended its paid sick leave law to require covered businesses to provide up to two weeks of paid leave for workers to use during a public health emergency, such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Public Health Emergency Leave Bill, an amendment to Philadelphia’s paid sick leave law, fills gaps in coverage left by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Accordingly, the amendment only applies to workers in Philadelphia who are not covered by the FFCRA. This includes employees of businesses with more than 500 employees, gig and healthcare workers, domestic workers, and others. The new law took effect September 17 and will expire December 31, 2020.

Covered Businesses and Workers

The amendment applies to “employers” and “hiring entities.” It defines “covered individuals” to include “employees” and “individuals” who work in Philadelphia for at least 40 hours in a year for one or more hiring entities. However, the amendment does not require a hiring entity to provide paid public health emergency leave to a worker who can reasonably perform his or her work remotely.

Amount of Leave

Individuals who work at least 40 hours per week are entitled to 80 hours of leave, or an amount equal to their average hours worked over a two-week period, whichever is greater. The amount of leave these individuals can use is capped at 112 hours. Individuals who work fewer than 40 hours per week are entitled to an amount of leave equal to the amount of hours they worked on average in a two-week period. If an individual’s hours vary from week to week, the hiring entity must use a formula that looks to average wages per day over the preceding six-month period multiplied by 14 to determine the compensation requirement for a two-week leave. If the individual did not work in the prior six months, the employer must look to the reasonable expectation of the covered individual.

The amendment permits covered individuals to continue to take paid public health emergency leave each time a public official declares a public health emergency based on a different emergency health concern, or when a public official declares a second public health emergency for the same emergency more than a month after the first emergency ended.

Permissible Uses

A covered individual can use paid public health emergency leave any time the individual is unable to work during a public health emergency for any of the following reasons:

  • The individual is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to the public health emergency
  • The individual has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to the public health emergency
  • The individual is experiencing symptoms related to the public health emergency and is seeking a medical diagnosis
  • The individual is caring for another individual who is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to the public health emergency or who a healthcare provider has advised to self-quarantine due to concerns related to the public health emergency
  • The individual is caring for a child of a covered individual if the child’s school or place of care has closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to precautions taken in accordance with the public health emergency response
  • The individual is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the US secretary of health and human services in consultation with the US secretary of the treasury and the US secretary of labor.

Practical Considerations for Employers

Philadelphia’s Public Health Emergency Leave Bill took effect on September 17; therefore, covered businesses should determine whether the amendment requires them to take any immediate action. Notably, a covered business might be able to use its existing paid sick leave benefits to comply with the amendment.

A business is not required to provide additional paid sick leave if its paid sick leave policy

  • already provides an amount of paid sick leave that meets or exceeds the amount of public health emergency leave required by the amendment; and
  • allows workers to use paid sick leave for the same purposes and under the same circumstances set forth by the amendment.


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How We Can Help

Morgan Lewis is tracking all COVID-19-related developments on a state and local level, including the growing number of jurisdictions issuing restrictions on employer operations and those providing guidance on the use of sick leave to help cover absences related to COVID-19. If you have any questions, would like to discuss which jurisdictions have developed or created new laws as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, or need additional information on the contents of this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Sarah E. Bouchard
W. John Lee
Michael J. Puma

Richard G. Rosenblatt