Let’s face it, at least one of your employees will need time off at some point because of a sick child or their own illness. The question that often arises is whether an employee is required to be paid for this time. The answer depends on several factors, including where the employer is located, the number of employees, the employee’s eligibility for paid time off, and the relationship of the ill person to the employee.
Navigating laws and regulations pertaining to sick leave can seem difficult. Below, we try and break down some of the basics you need to be aware of as an employer when it comes to issues of time off, sick leave and compensation.
Currently, federal law does not require that employers offer paid sick leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does require that employees of covered employers be given unpaid time off (with benefits coverage and job protection) for up to 12 weeks within a twelve-month period in the event of:
The birth and care of the newborn child of an employee.
Placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care.
An immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) experiencing a serious health condition.
Medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty”; alternatively, an employee may be given up to twenty-six workweeks of leave during a 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).
A number of states have implemented their own paid sick leave policies. Currently, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and DC all have sick leave laws on the books.
The amount of paid sick leave granted to employees varies from state to state, with many states offering one hour of paid sick leave per thirty hours worked, capped at forty hours per year. Though again, this is not the case for all listed states. Rollover of sick leave hours and the total accruable amount of hours also varies according to state. Many states require paid sick leave time to include routine medical visits, including a child’s or employee’s preventive care visits.
Among some of the other allowed reasons for paid sick leave are preventive care, mental health treatment, domestic violence leave, childcare in event of closures, to ensure safety in matters where safety is at risk, enrolling a child in school, exposure to disease, traveling to and from an allowable appointment, among a host of other relevant paid sick leave needs.
Local Ordinances/Municipal Laws Addressing Sick Leave
Numerous municipalities and local governments have enacted their own paid sick leave laws. Like state laws on this issue, how and to what companies and family members these local laws apply varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
For example, Duluth, Minnesota requires employers with 5 or more employees to offer Earned Sick and Safe Time. This may be used, among other reasons, to cover shifts that a person may not be able to work because of a sickness or safe time issue. While employers in Philadelphia must abide by the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces law. Those companies with at least ten employees must allow for paid sick leave.
Employers in several states enjoy relief from having to comply with both state and local laws related to paid sick leave, as some states have passed laws prohibiting local governments from regulating sick leave. This reduces administrative burdens for employers with offices in multiple locations.
Whether an employer is required to provide paid sick leave will depend on several factors, including where the employer is located. Even if an employer is not required to offer paid sick leave, they may choose to offer it as an added perk for employees.
Understanding and adhering to sick leave laws as a small business owner can seem a bit complicated at times. What do you do for example if your municipality has different sick leave laws than your state? In this instance, generally, the rule of thumb is to comply with both by applying the more generous law to employees.