December 23, 2021

COVID-19 and Federal/State Updates

We don’t have quite as many updates this time which is a gift in and of itself. The COVID-19 vaccine mandates continue to ping pong their way in and out of our lives. Stayed, enjoined, reinstated, suspended – it’s been quite the circus, but that’s just COVID-19 for the last two years.

The latest, you may have heard, is that the Supreme Court has announced that it will hold two special oral argument sessions on Friday, January 7, 2022. The first session pertains to the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The second session pertains to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services healthcare COVID-19 vaccine mandate (CMS) which is currently blocked in 25 states. As far as the ETS is concerned, arguments will be made that the Sixth Circuit was wrong in lifting the stay of the ETS by the Fifth Circuit. The Department of Justice is seeking the full reinstatement of the CMS mandate nationwide.

Each session will be one hour which leaves plenty of time for the SCOTUS to rule that day, perhaps over the weekend? Given that employers have until January 10, 2022 under the ETS to have their written policy in place as well as determine the vaccination status of each employee, it’s cutting things pretty close. The best decision is to keep planning that it will be in effect as of the 10th.

OSHA has updated FAQs for the ETS. Of note, is section 6 which addresses testing including over the counter and self-administered tests.

U.S. State Updates

Rhode Island

The Department of Labor and Training has released the update to the Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) contribution rate and taxable wage ceiling for 2022. The employee contribution rate will decrease from 1.3% to 1.1% and the taxable wage ceiling will increase from $74,000 to $81,500. Rhode Island employees will see their maximum contribution increase from $962 to $978. As a reminder, we have our state website, here, which has consolidated updates for 2022, including this update in Rhode Island.

Canada Provincial Update

Quebec Parental Benefits (QPIP)

The Quebec benefit rates and premium rates for 2022 have now been released. Additionally, there are some changes to the QPIP benefits, including one change that occurred for benefit periods beginning on or after September 26, 2021.

The premium rates for QPIP will remain the same as they are in 2021. Therefore, the premium rate for 2022 is 0.494% for salaried workers and 0.692% for employers. However, the maximum insurable earnings are increasing in Quebec from $83,500 to $88,000. This means that the maximum premium for salaried workers will be $434.72 and $608.96 for employers in 2022.

Further, because of the maximum insurable earnings increase, the maximum weekly QPIP benefit amount, payable to workers when they claim QPIP benefits, is increasing to $1,184.62 per week in 2022. Note: the special plan benefits are expected to increase to $1,269.23. Also, during weeks 8-32 of the basic plan for shareable parental benefits, the maximum weekly benefit amount is $930.77 (see the second column and third row of the (Pregnancy and Birth table).

In addition to the update in the maximum benefit rate, QPIP benefits are changing in the following ways:

  • Parents whose weekly earnings are less than $540 can receive an increased benefit of up to 85% or 100% of their average weekly earnings, depending on the plan option they chose, rather than between 55% and 75% as currently provided for by the QPIP. This new measure applies to parents whose benefit period began on or after September 26, 2021.
  • For parents whose benefit period begins on or after January 1, 2022, there is an additional benefit for single parents. Following a birth or an adoption for which only one parent is recorded on the birth certificate or the document in lieu of a birth certificate, the parent will be entitled to additional weeks of parental or adoption benefits. The number of additional weeks depends on the chosen plan (see below). These benefits would be in addition to the Maternity, Paternity, Parental, Settlement and Support, and Adoption presently offered under QPIP.
    • Basic plan
      • 5 additional weeks of parental or adoption benefits at 70%.
    • Special plan
      • 3 additional weeks of parental or adoption benefits at 75%.
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