New Laws About (Achoo!) Paid Sick Leave

By: Christina Morales

shutterstock_sick-worker-e1382555325892‘Tis the season! Nope, not just for caroling or gift giving or visiting Santa Claus. It’s that special time of year when we generously exchange germs, pile high used Kleenex like snow drifts upon our desks, and sniffle to the tune of Jingle Bells. We bundle up on the couch to watch timeless Christmas movies and groan like a wildebeest at every little ache and pain. And when this happens to you and your employees (notice I didn’t say “if”?), will you be ready with the new information pertaining to sick leave?

The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 becomes effective July 1, 2015, and requires all California employers to provide their employees with at least 3 days (24 hours) of paid sick leave per year. As a small business owner, here are some facts you need to keep in mind (or you can visit the full document on the California Legislative Information’s website:

·   Employees are entitled to use accrued paid sick days beginning on the 90th day of employment. However, at his or her discretion, an employer may lend paid sick days to an employee in advance of accrual.

·   Employers may limit the amount of sick leave used to 24 hours or 3 days per year.

·   “Paid sick days” means time that is compensated at the same wage that the employee normally earns during regular work hours and is provided by an employer to an employee. If the employee is paid by commission or piece rate, or otherwise has a variable hourly wage, or is a non-exempt, salaried employee, then the rate of pay is calculated by dividing the employee’s total wages.

·   Sick days must be accrued at the rate of not less than one hour per every 30 hours worked, which is approximately 1.3 hours per week, or 5.3 hours per month, for employees who work 40 hours a week.

·   Unused, accrued sick days must carry over to the next year, up to a permissible accrual cap of 48 hours, or 6 days. However, if employees are given the total amount of sick leave that may be used per year—24 hours or 3 days—at the beginning of each year, no accrual or carry-over is required.

·   Sick leave may be used for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for, an employee or an employee’s family member. The definition of “family member” is broad and includes parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings (to just name a few).

·   Unlike vacation time, employers are not required to provide compensation to an employee for accrued, unused paid sick days if an employee is fired or if he or she quits. However, if an employee separates from an employer and is rehired within one year, previously unused paid sick days must be reinstated.

·   Those employees NOT covered are the following: (1) union-represented employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement which expressly provides for paid sick leave, final and binding arbitration, and other requirements; (2) employees in the construction industry covered by a collective bargaining agreement that satisfies certain criteria; (3) providers of certain in-home services; and (4) employees of an air carrier flight deck or cabin crew members who receive paid time off equal to the requirements of the new law.

California is not alone in its revision of these requirements. Trenton and Montclair became the latest New Jersey municipalities to approve paid sick leave laws in 2014. Here is what these business owners should keep in mind (or you can read the original documents on the state of New Jersey’swebsite):

·   Employers with ten or more employees will be required to offer up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year. Smaller employers with less than ten employees also must provide sick time, but only up to 24 hours.

·   Employees accrue at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employees shall begin to accrue sick time at the start of their employment or on the effective date of the law – whichever is sooner – and may begin using the paid time after 90 days of employment.

·   The paid sick time may be used for the following reasons: the employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition or the employee’s need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of his/her own health condition; the employee’s need to care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or who needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or care of same; or who needs preventive medical care; or the employee’s place of business is closed due to a public health emergency; or an employee’s child’s school or place of care has been closed due to a public health emergency; or to care for a family member who may have been exposed to a communicable disease.

In both states, employers are required to post the appropriate government created posters in their business establishment in a conspicuous and accessible place. Moreover, failure to comply with either ordinance will also result in hefty fines for the employer. You may want to contact an employment lawyer to ensure that you know all of the pertinent changes that apply to your company and employees.

Healthy employees equal a healthy work environment. Sickness is something that can’t be avoided, so investing in an employee’s well-being will surely result in a better workplace.

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