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Business Owners' Top Questions on Mandatory Sick Leave Laws

Here are the top sick leave law questions Paychex is hearing from small business clients, with information you should consider when evaluating or developing your company's policy.
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Updated. Originally published July 23, 2015.

Recent regulatory developments regarding mandatory sick-leave laws at state and local levels have many employers revisiting their sick-leave policies.

Paychex answers the top questions we hear from small-business clients. Consider this information when evaluating or developing your sick-leave policy.

1. Is there a federal law mandating paid sick leave?

No federal law dictates paid sick leave for employees of private employers at this time. Sick-leave laws have been passed at state and local levels. The laws vary by jurisdiction, and may only cover a specific industry, type of employee or employer within a jurisdiction. Laws may vary by eligibility requirements, accrual rates, use of accrued sick time, status of leave as paid or unpaid, and notice and record-keeping requirements.

Federal sick-leave legislation has been introduced in Congress, and the Secretary of Labor supports the need for a federal sick-leave program. It’s important to be aware that private employers covered under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may need to provide unpaid time off to eligible employees who take leave for qualified family and/or medical reasons. The U.S. Department of Labor provides thorough information about the FMLA.

2. What jurisdictions in the United States have passed mandatory sick-leave laws?

The push for mandatory paid sick-leave continues nationwide, and employers of all sizes should stay alert for pertinent legislation in their areas. At this time, four states — California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon* have passed paid sick-leave laws, as has the District of Columbia and Montgomery County*, MD. The following U.S. cities have also passed sick leave ordinances:

California

  • Emeryville
  • Long Beach
  • Oakland
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco

New Jersey

  • Bloomfield
  • East Orange
  • Elizabeth*
  • Irvington
  • Jersey City
  • Montclair
  • Newark
  • Passaic
  • Paterson
  • Trenton

New York

  • New York City

Oregon

  • Portland

Pennsylvania

  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh*

Washington

  • Seattle
  • Sea-Tac
  • Tacoma*

Jurisdictions marked with an asterisk (*) have paid sick-leave laws that take effect in 2016.

3. Do I need to change my sick leave policy if I already have a policy in place or offer a paid time off (PTO) policy?

Many sick-leave laws passed at state or local levels permit employers to maintain their current sick or PTO policy if it satisfies the accrual, carryover, use, and any other requirements of the applicable law. In most cases, employers that provide a policy exceeding the minimum requirements must notify employees of these additional terms and conditions and must comply with other notice requirements.

4. What sick leave-related reporting/tracking requirements am I responsible for?

Reporting and tracking requirements are specific to the applicable sick-leave law. Such requirements may include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Keeping detailed records related to hours worked;
  • Sick time accrued;
  • Amount of sick time taken, and when;
  • The pay rate for sick time taken; and
  • Any amount of paid sick time carried over or paid out.

In some instances, the employer may be required to provide some of this information to employees with each pay stub.

5. Do I need to let my employees know how much sick leave they have available? If so, how often?

Laws in your jurisdiction may not require informing staff about available paid sick-leave. If they do, the statute, ordinance or implementing regulations will outline the method and timing. Refer to the resources provided on the applicable jurisdiction’s website or consult legal counsel to determine how to best meet the provisions of the applicable guidance.

 

 

* The questions and answers above are not all-inclusive and are not to be considered legal advice. Employers are encouraged to seek legal counsel to address their compliance efforts to meet the specific obligations under applicable laws and regulations.

 

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