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Considerations for Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

By   Lauri Dahlberg

December 05, 2017

Mandatory paid sick leave is a hot topic in the HR world today. Employees are waking up realizing the importance of taking care of themselves and the people they love, and employers are being required to respond to that reality. A number of states and cities have either enacted laws that offer paid sick leave to employees, or are on the cusp of doing so. Eight states have stepped up to the plate: Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Arizona, Washington and Rhode Island. Washington D.C. is also included in this mix. With more states and large cities expected to propose sick leave laws in the coming year, it should be at the forefront of business discussions across the nation.

Before discussing the paid sick leave laws, it is important to understand exactly what “paid sick leave” means. Paid sick leave is time an employee spends away from work to care for their health or safety or the health or safety of their family members without losing pay. That seems simple enough. But, when you throw legislation in to the mix, the result is far more complex. The laws that have been enacted include a full spectrum of detail - from defining which employers must provide coverage, to how much paid sick leave is required by an employer, to what the paid sick leave can be utilized for.

Interestingly enough, each state’s paid sick leave includes the areas above - they just do so in slightly different ways. Take California, for example. All employees in California who work more than 30 days for an employer are eligible to receive paid sick leave. They accrue their paid sick leave by either receiving a pre-loaded bank of 24 hours per year, or by earning one hour for every 30 hours worked. They may utilize this time for their own or a family member’s diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing health condition or preventative care, or for specified purposes for an employee who is the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. And, they may carry over unused sick leave from one year to the next, but it is capped at 48 hours total. The other seven states vary in their requirements, accrual, carry-over and utilization. With paid sick leave being handled at the state level and not at the federal level, each state is able to propose and enact what works best for their workforce.

Employers need to keep in mind that these laws will affect their time off policies and benefits. Employer time off plans that lump vacation and sick time together may need to be expanded with more hours dedicated to sick leave in order to meet state legislative requirements, whereas those with sick leave benefits that meet or exceed the state required amounts will not need to make changes to accruals. Policies may need to be updated to include processes for employees to follow to utilize their accrued paid sick leave benefits. And the area of “attendance policies” is still being worked out, as many of the state mandated paid sick leave laws conflict with attendance standards set by employers.

When it comes down to it, providing employees with paid time off to take care of health and well-being is not only in the employee’s best interest. It helps create healthy, productive, appreciative employees, and that will be in any company’s best interest.

In the end, there’s a lot to consider about paid sick leave. With Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina and Wisconsin ready with proposed legislation, now is the time to consider it for your business. Contact Eide Bailly today for more information on how to best address the issue.