With cold and flu season fast approaching, many employers are revisiting their employee sick leave policies. This year, it's a priority for business owners and HR managers in light of important regulatory developments. Certain private employers will be required to offer employees sick leave under newly passed legislation, ballot initiatives, and local ordinances in different parts of the country. Here is a closer look at what these regulations mean, how to determine if you've been affected, and what to consider when evaluating your existing leave policy or developing a new policy.
Local vs. State vs. Federal Regulations
Currently, there are no federal regulations or guidelines mandating private employers to provide sick time to employees, although certain employers must provide leave under the Family and Medical Leave act for qualifying reasons. Much of the activity to date regarding mandatory paid (and sometimes unpaid) sick leave has occurred at the local level, although some are at the county level. New York City implemented a policy in early 2014 that gave an estimated one million people access to sick time who previously may have been without it (note that some employees will be eligible for unpaid sick time).
Increasingly, this issue is receiving attention at the state level as well (many other localities, especially in the Northeast and Northwest, have also passed similar legislation). California has passed legislation, effective January 2015, although actual accrual/use of paid sick time does not become available to eligible employees until July 1, 2015. In November 2014, voters passed a ballot initiative to provide employees in Massachusetts with sick leave benefits as well. More changes are anticipated to be on the horizon on both the state and local levels around the nation.
What Steps Businesses Should Take
The first step business owners should take is to determine whether they are required under a state law or local ordinance to offer sick leave to employees. Ensure that both your sick leave policy and your employee handbook reflect applicable law on this issue. Refer to all applicable laws, ordinances and regulations when revising or developing a new sick leave policy. Consider the following issues:
- Eligibility requirements, i.e., length of service, part-time, full-time
- Number of days
- Accrual rates
- Accrual caps
- Carry over or end of year pay out
- Eligible reasons for use of sick leave
- What documentation may be required for time taken under your sick leave policy?
Complying with the latest paid sick leave laws and regulations is important and may also include detailed notice, posting, and recordkeeping requirements. Failure to comply can lead to fines, penalties, and potential litigation. Contact Paychex today to learn more about our products and services and how we can assist you in your human resource needs.