An emerging trend in employment law has started to take hold, requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to workers. As of July 1, 2015, California and Massachusetts are required to offer paid sick leave. Bills introduced in many other states are advancing and likely to follow.
Before last year, only Connecticut and several cities, such as New York City and San Francisco, had a paid sick leave laws. That’s about to change. As of July 1, 2015, California and Massachusetts require employers to offer paid sick leave. Many other states are likely to follow. In fact, Oregon’s governor just signed a bill into law that will require businesses in Oregon to offer sick leave beginning on January 1, 2016, making Oregon the fourth state to require paid sick leave.
Bills have been introduced in Hawaii, Vermont, Delaware, and Rhode Island and are advancing with the potential to pass paid sick leave laws next. New York, Illinois, and New Jersey may enact paid sick leave laws eventually.
The paid sick leave laws passed so far share some common elements. Employers are typically required to offer an hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours worked or an amount not less than 40 hours per year. Nearly every paid sick leave law requires employees to be able to use paid sick leave for family care.
The various state laws also have their differences. Some states give employers multiple options to provide paid sick leave. California, for example, allows employers to choose between accrual and lump sum methods.
Recommended steps if a paid sick leave law is enacted in your state:
- Review all current and new paid leave policies for compliance.
- Decide whether lumping vacation, personal, and sick leave together would be better for your organization and, if applicable, for which specific employee groups.
- Determine which employees work in places with paid sick leave laws and consider whether a one-size-fits-all policy or location-specific policies would be better.
- Confirm that usage terms, accrual, coverage, carry-over, and any vesting rules meet minimum requirements.
- Review the employee notice requirements, e.g., paystubs and workplace posters.
- Update your handbook and distribute it to employees.
Most states do not require paid sick leave to be separated from general time off, but existing paid time off policies must meet all the minimum requirements of the law. Given all these variables, some employers may find it easier to update their current sick leave policy while others may decide to create a new policy from scratch. Remember that combining vacation and paid sick leave together may alter whether the time needs to be paid at termination. In other words, if you use “paid time off” to cover sick and vacation leaves, regulations on both sick leave and vacation – whichever are most beneficial to the employee – will apply.
Even if your state has no paid sick leave law, it never hurts to review your paid leave programs. Make sure that your written policy for your paid leave benefits is in place and makes sense to your employees.
The Paid Sick Leave Trend, HR Advisor Newsletter/ July 2015
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