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28 Apr

April 2021 Pennsylvania HR Legal Updates

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Philadelphia Enacts 2021 Public Health Emergency Leave

Update Applicable to:
All employers operating within Philadelphia.

What happened?
On March 17, 2021, the Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a bill amending the city’s previous Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) legislation. On March 29, 2021, Mayor Kenney signed the amendments into law, effective immediately.

What are the details?
The amendments provide eligible employees up to an additional 80 hours of 2021 PHEL between March 29, 2021, and one week following the official termination or suspension of the public health emergency.  Covered reasons for use of available PHEL have been expanded to include leave to receive and recover from COVID-19 vaccinations.

Notably, employers are required to provide covered employees with a notice of rights by April 13, 2021.  The traditional non-COVID-19 paid sick leave benefit under the Philadelphia Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces ordinance is not generally affected by the 2021 PHEL amendments.  The 2021 PHEL amendments sunset upon expiration of the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency of the Governor of Pennsylvania related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Employees who work 40 or more hours per week are eligible for 80 hours of 2021 PHEL, unless the employer designates a higher amount.

Employees who work fewer than 40 hours in a week are eligible for an amount of 2021 PHEL equal to the amount of time the employee is otherwise scheduled to work or works on average in a 14-day period, whichever is greater, unless the employer designates a higher amount.  Employees whose schedules vary from week to week are eligible for an amount of 2021 PHEL equal to the average number of daily hours that the employee was scheduled over the past 90 days of work, including hours for which the employee took leave of any type, multiplied by 14. 

For purposes of 2021 PHEL, exempt employees are assumed to work 40 hours per week, unless their normal work-week is less than 40 hours, in which case they are eligible for an amount of leave based on that normal workweek.

An eligible employee may use 2021 PHEL when he or she is unable to work due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • To care for oneself or a family member when it has been determined by a public official or public health authority having jurisdiction, a health-care provider, or an employer, that the employee or family member’s presence on the job or in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of their exposure to COVID-19 or because they are exhibiting symptoms that might jeopardize the health of others, regardless of whether the employee or family member has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • To care for oneself or a family member diagnosed with or showing symptoms of COVID-19, or seeking a diagnosis, care, or treatment if experiencing symptoms of an illness related to COVID-19;
  • To care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable, due to precautions taken per the public health emergency response;
  • An employee’s need to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine; or
  • An employee’s need to recover from any injury, disability, illness, or condition related to such vaccination.

The mandate requires employers to post in the workplace, or if the workforce is mostly remote, the employer may distribute the notice via electronic means. Employers are also required to provide the notice to all employees, as of April 13, 2021.

The required posting/notice can be found here.

An article providing additional details about this paid leave can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers operating within Philadelphia should update their workplace policies to reflect the changes to the PHEL program.