Keeping track of paid sick leave laws is becoming increasingly difficult for employers, as more cities and states adopt legislation. Each law is unique, making compliance especially challenging for employers with multiple worksites.
Currently, five states and 32 municipalities have paid sick leave laws (PSLL). Three cities will enact laws on January 1, 2017—the same day Executive Order 13706, a federal law impacting federal contractors, becomes effective.
Although the provisions of each law vary, they do share the same components. Understanding these components is the first step to getting in front of this important issue.
Key Components of Paid Sick Leave Laws
There are 13 key components of most paid sick leave laws, as summarized below.
Definition of Covered Employers
Which employers are subject to PSLL is often determined by the size of their workforce. For example, in California, employers with one or more employees must comply, while in Connecticut, employers with 50 or more employees are subject. Some laws, such as Chicago’s, focus on employer location rather than workforce size.
Definition of Covered Employees
Whether or not an employee is covered under the law is determined various ways. These include the number of hours an employee works during a fixed time period (in New York City, it’s a minimum of 40 hours per year), the location of an employee’s primary workplace (as in Massachusetts) or the nature of their job (in Connecticut, “service workers” are covered).
Paid Sick Leave Accrual Cap
Paid sick leave (PSL) is generally accrued, although some laws offer employers the option of “frontloading” a fixed amount of PSL at the beginning of the year. Most PSLLs cap how much paid sick leave employees can accrue. In Philadelphia, employees can accrue up to 40 hours of PSL per year, while in Seattle, there is no cap.
Rates of Accrual
Paid sick leave is typically accrued based on the number of hours worked by an employee, which varies by law. In California, the rate of accrual is one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, whereas in Vermont, the accrual rate is one hour for every 52 hours worked.
Employee Usage Caps
As if things weren’t complicated enough, some laws specify an employee usage cap (how much PSL an employee can use within a fixed time period) that doesn’t match the accrual cap. In California, employees accrue one hour of PSL for every 30 hours worked, but can use 24 hours of PSL or three days within a year.
Most PSLLs require the carryover of some amount of unused paid sick leave at year end. For example, Executive Order 13706 requires up to 56 hours be carried over. Some laws also specify that a “cash out” or “lump sum” option must be offered, too.
Usage Waiting Period
Most paid sick leave laws include a waiting period before new hires can use their PSL, ranging from a 90-day waiting period in California to a one-year waiting period in Vermont.
Minimum Increments of Use
What’s the smallest amount of paid sick leave an employee can use at one time? It varies, ranging from 15-minute increments (Seattle) to four-hour increments (NYC). In Philadelphia, it’s calculated as the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment the employer’s payroll system uses to track absences, etc.
Covered Family Members
Most PSLLs provide paid sick leave not just for sick employees, but sick relatives, too. Covered relatives may include spouses, children, parents, and even grandparents. In Emeryville, California, PSL applies when the employee needs to care for his/her ailing service dog!
Employee Notice to Employer
Most PSLLs specify how employees must notify their employer of their need for paid sick leave. Some laws require that notification be provided within specific timeframes, differentiating between foreseeable events (typically seven to ten days of advance notice) and unforeseeable events (to be provided as soon as realistically possible).
Reasonable Documentation of Sickness
Some paid sick leave laws require that employees provide documentation, like a doctor’s note, after a certain amount of worktime is missed. Many laws specify medical confirmation is required after an employee is absent for three consecutive workdays.
Many, but not all, PSLLs specify how long employers must keep records of accrued and used paid sick leave. Some of these require that records be held for three or four years.
Employer Notice Requirements
Many PSLLs specify how employers must communicate paid sick leave benefits to employees, including postings and/or through individual notifications.
In summary, paid sick leave laws are very specific and highly variable. EPAY’s seamless human capital management system makes it easy to stay compliant with specific paid sick leave laws at each of your work locations, no matter how many. Schedule a personalized demo of our human capital management software today!
This information is based on our webinar, Navigating Paid Sick Leave Laws, presented by attorney Tracy Billows, a partner in the Chicago office of Seyfarth and Shaw LLP. Click here to view the recorded webinar.