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Your Company's Sick Leave Policy - Maintaining it is Not as Simple as it Used to be

Effective July 1, new laws will require employers in California and Massachusetts to provide mandatory sick leave to workers. Similar legislation has already been enacted or is pending in more than a dozen jurisdictions, including Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Seattle, and New York City.This has been a hot topic in recent months but mandatory sick leave is not a new trend. 

Back in 2006, San Francisco became the first county in the nation to require employers to provide sick leave for all employees, including temporary and part-time workers. Connecticut's mandatory sick leave law has been in effect since 2012. 

To-date, 15 other states are considering similar legislation, while at the other end of the spectrum, eight states have passed preemption laws prohibiting its cities or counties from passing any sick-leave laws.This leaves companies with the often daunting task of monitoring the applicable regulations to ensure that their sick leave or Paid Time Off (PTO) policies are compliant. Employers with operations across multiple states or cities must be particularly diligent as (with certain exceptions) the laws generally require compliance based on where the employee works.

California’s new statute provides an example of how these laws function: The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act requires employers to provide sick leave for every California employee, regardless of how big or small the employer. Sick leave must be provided to any employee that works at least 30 days within 1 year of hire.Covered employees must accrue at least 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, and at least 3 days of sick-leave per year. Employees can begin to take sick leave after 90 days of work and must be paid at their regular rate of pay for the leave. 

There are numerous exceptions, exclusions and specific provisions that may apply. Written notice of an employee’s total hours accrued must be provided to each employee on pay days.

In contrast, the Massachusetts Wage Act requires that employers in the state with more than 11 employees provide 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year, while smaller employers must provide 40 hours of unpaid leave. Sick leave hours accrue similarly to the California law. Notice of the law must also be posted in a conspicuous place.

These are just two examples. Each state and city that has such a law has some particular nuance. Compliance across jurisdictions requires a thorough understanding of each statute or rule. And the issue is likely to become even more complex in the future. Without any blanket federal legislation, laws will continue to vary state-to-state or city-to-city. The politics surrounding the topic are also polarizing, pitting workers’ rights groups against business groups. Legal or HR assistance is a must when putting together a company’s sick leave policy to ensure it does not run afoul of any given jurisdiction’s laws.