Nobody is immune to getting sick. Even the strictest fitness enthusiast in the office can feel under the weather too. From allergies, migraines, colds, to other medical conditions, there can be a host of reasons that can cause employees to feel under the weather. What happens in this situation? If you are an employer, you should know what to do in case this happens. Similarly, employees must also know their course of action. Depending on company policy, one of the options is sick leave pay.
What is “sick leave pay''?
Sick leave pay refers to a type of benefit that allows employees to receive compensation during the time that they take off work to take care of their health needs. This can be due to an illness, disability, or injury.
The guidelines and laws that govern sick leave pay highly depend on each organization’s policy and the state they are at. Employees may take time off work because of personal health reasons or to take care of a family member facing health concerns.
Are all companies required to provide sick leave pay to their employees?
One of the most common questions that are usually asked is if sick leave pay is a requirement. Presently, there are no federal laws that legally require employers to offer paid leave. Paid sick leave benefits are more commonly given in the public sector than private organizations.
While this is the case, many states have paid sick leave laws in place.
Here is a list of the 15 states plus Washington D.C. that have paid sick leave laws in place as of 2021:
A tip to employers, make sure that you are up to date with your state’s laws before drafting a sick leave policy. You may check the National Conference of State Legislature’s website for more detailed information. Your state may have specific eligibility requirements for paid sick leave such as the number of employees.
How many paid sick days do companies typically offer?
The exact number of paid sick days that a company offers is up to their discretion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as much as 75% of workers belonging to the private industry had access to paid sick leave in March 2020. The number of sick days varied but the average was seven paid sick days per year. Employees who work for companies with more than 500 workers were given up to eight sick days per year.
Depending on the size of the company and the state they belong to, employees typically accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 or 40 hours worked. In case an employee does not use their paid sick leave benefit, the balance may be rolled over to the following year. However, there may be a cap on the number of hours or days that can be carried over.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor established the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which required certain employers to offer their employees paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19. The FFCRA applied to public and private companies with less than 500 employees. Note that the FFCRA was only effective until December 31, 2020. It is no longer applicable.
For clarity, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of sick leave that is not paid. The only time that employees on FMLA leave are compensated is if they choose to use their accrued paid time off, vacation days, or sick leave during their FMLA leave. Furthermore, the FMLA applies to employers that have more than 50 employees.
What are some tips in creating a sick leave policy?
If you are an employer and you want to offer sick leave pay to your employees, that’s great. Sick leave benefits are something that employees appreciate. It is a benefit that can attract and keep talent.
When drafting a sick leave policy, it’s important to ensure that it is comprehensive. While sick leave policies are unique to the needs and guidelines of each organization, let’s look at the sections that are common components of sick leave policies.
Eligibility. Your policy must determine who is eligible for sick leave pay? The companies can define who can access paid sick time. This may depend on the length of service an employee has given, the job duties, or position. Check your state laws regarding paid sick leave.
Accrual. Your policy must determine how many sick time hours or days does an employee accrue in a certain period. The policy should state detailed information on how the sick leave accrual process works. Does the accrual process begin on the employee’s first day at work? Or do they have to stay with the company for a specific period?
Use. Your policy must answer the question, “When can an employee use sick time?” The policy should indicate situations and reasons when employees can use sick leave. Having clear guidelines will prevent employees from using paid sick leave for any other reason aside from the leave’s purpose. In this section, it may be helpful to also state examples of what paid sick leave should not be used for. Additionally, you can include corresponding disciplinary actions the company can take for employees who intentionally misuse paid sick leave.
Laws. Provide employees with information or links to relevant federal and state laws about sick leave.
Process of requesting sick leave. Your policy should answer the question: “how can an employee request sick leave?” This section should state the procedure that employees must follow when taking sick leave. Who do they need to inform? How can they communicate? For example, do they have an employee portal or can they give a call or email their manager? Additionally, the policy must indicate rules regarding when employees need to provide documentation like a doctor’s note or letter.
Unused sick leave. Your policy should answer the question, “What happens to the unused sick leave?” This section covers the rules on what happens to the remaining balance of an employee’s accrued sick time. Does the company carry over unused sick time to the following year? If so, how much? Will the company allow employees to cash out unused sick time? These rules are dependent on the organization.
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