Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Leave Law Expires, but City’s Healthcare Epidemic Leave Benefit Remains on the Books

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Quick Hits

  • Philadelphia’s Health Care Epidemic Leave Benefit is still active, but the city’s COVID-19 leave benefit expired December 31, 2023.
  • The Health Care Epidemic Leave Benefit requires that Philadelphia healthcare employers with ten or more employees reimburse eligible employees “for all lost wages related to the disease (isolation, treatment and recovery) when [an] employee is unable to work.”
  • The Health Care Epidemic Leave Benefit does not have an expiration date, and, instead, applies “during a declared pandemic or epidemic.”

The Philadelphia Department of Labor stated the following in a press release:

“The Health Care Epidemic Leave law clearly states that the law’s effective period is ‘during a pandemic or epidemic affecting the City of Philadelphia declared to exist by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or other recognized public interest health organization.’”

Philadelphia approved its most recent iteration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Leave law on March 9, 2022. That leave law guaranteed up to forty hours of paid COVID-19 leave (COVID-19 leave) for eligible Philadelphia employees without any waiting or accrual requirements. The COVID-19 leave law expired on December 31, 2023.

Philadelphia’s Health Care Epidemic Leave Benefit Still in Effect

On September 9, 2020, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed Bill No. 20030601, which amended the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance and requires healthcare employers to compensate lost wages and medical expenses to certain healthcare employees who “contract a communicable disease during a pandemic or epidemic affecting the City of Philadelphia declared to exist by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or other recognized public interest health organization.”

The ordinance also states that “[t]o qualify for this benefit, the pool employee or healthcare employee must be in the service of the employer for a minimum of 40 hours during the previous three month period prior to contracting the communicable disease during a pandemic or epidemic event.” The Health Care Epidemic Leave Benefit requires reimbursement “for all lost wages related to the disease (isolation, treatment and recovery) when the employee is unable to work.” The employee “shall be reimbursed for all medical expenses related to treatment for the communicable disease or the employer shall provide such care as needed at its facility at no cost to the employee.” City regulations provide further details of the eligibility requirements and benefits.

In the context of the ordinance, pool employees are not lifeguards. Instead, a “pool employee” is defined as “any health care professional, other than an employee of a temporary placement agency, who works only when he or she indicates that he or she is available for work and who has no obligation to work when he or she does not indicate availability.”

Unlike the COVID-19 leave benefit, the Health Care Epidemic Leave Benefit does not have an expiration date and, instead, applies “during a declared pandemic or epidemic.” The ordinance defines “epidemic” to “mean[] an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time.” The ordinance defines “pandemic” to “mean[] an outbreak of disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population.”

The Philadelphia Department of Labor also stated in its press release that “the national health emergency ended on May 11, 2023, [but] health officials are not saying the pandemic is over. The Health Care Epidemic Leave requirements will remain in effect until the end of a declared pandemic.”

Ogletree Deakins’ Philadelphia office will continue to monitor developments and will publish updates on the COVID-19/Coronavirus, Leaves of Absence, Pennsylvania, and Workplace Safety and Health blogs as additional information becomes available.

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