We’ve all seen it—one of our employees has a bad cold, maybe even the flu, but they come to work anyway. In some cases, the employee has the option of taking time off, and you’d prefer they do so, but still they show up, putting everyone in the workplace at risk. The reasons vary. Sometimes the employee can’t afford the reduced hours. Sometimes they can take the financial hit, but they’re worried about falling behind on their projects, missing an important meeting, or looking bad next to their co-workers who never seem to take a day off.
Some employers encourage sick employees to stay home and rest. To that end, they offer paid sick or personal time so that employees who already feel lousy don’t have to suffer the stress of a smaller paycheck. While paid leave doesn’t work 100% to keep sick employees home, it helps.
In fact, more and more states have passed laws requiring it. In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to pass a paid sick leave law. Now, a total of ten states plus Washington D.C. require at least some employers to provide paid sick leave; these are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. And many cities have their own, typically more generous ordinances.
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 a certain number of hours worked per week (usually 30 or 40). Every state-mandated paid sick leave law requires employees to be able to use paid sick leave to care for a family member, and most allow the time to be used in case of domestic or sexual violence. The laws vary most—though still not dramatically—with respect to which employees are eligible and when, and what kind of documentation can be required to prove that employees used the leave for a permissible purpose.
Currently, eighteen states have pending sick leave bills, but we don’t know how many, if any, will soon pass. If a paid sick leave law is enacted in your state, we recommend taking the following steps:
- Review all leave policies for compliance. While these laws will generally allow you to keep a current policy as long as it is at least as generous as required by the state law, you will need to comply with the various notice and recordkeeping requirements as well.
- Decide whether lumping vacation, personal, and sick leave together would be better for your organization and, if applicable, for which specific employee groups (you may want a lump sum policy for full-time employees and an hour-by-hour accrual system for part-timers).
- 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; the law may require a poster, written policy, notice on employee paystubs of time accrued, or all of those.
- Update your handbook and distribute it to employees.