It’s “What’s Up? Wednesday”. Time to talk about SICK TIME . . .

You asked: “We are revising some of our employment policies and want to know how much time most companies offer their employees for “sick time”. We currently give our employees two days each year. Is that okay?TissueBox-800Laura answers:

Sick time is a hot topic right now. Though there are no federal statutes requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to employees, several cities are introducing new laws that do just that. In fact, proposed paid sick leave laws are generating heated debates in cities around the country this year.

Portland, Oregon just passed a bill that will require most employers to provide one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Meanwhile, New York City’s mayor vetoed a similar bill but was overridden by the city council and the bill became law. The mayor and city council of Philadelphia continue battling over mandatory paid sick leave for employees in that city.

These city laws vary, but most require employers to provide one hour of paid time off for every 30 to 40 or so hours worked by full- and part-time employees. That amounts to approximately seven (7) days a year for your average full-time employee. In deference to small businesses, the laws allow varying accrual rates, some even exempt smaller businesses altogether.  For example, the Portland law allows companies with five or less employees to provide unpaid, rather than paid leave.

Most employers are not waiting for legislation to mandate their practices. According to a 2013 survey by Business & Legal Resources (BLR), the vast majority of companies offer sick leave to their employees, exempt and non-exempt alike. More than 83% of those surveyed allow annual accruals that range from as little as two (2) days up to four (4) weeks per year. The most common allowance  was up to one (1) week of sick time accrued per year. According to the same survey, most employers (63.3%) compute sick leave separately from vacation time.

We recommend that  you keep an eye on that employee at your company who frequently requests sick leave. You may have a discipline issue to deal with, OR you may have an employee dealing with a situation that is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

FMLA reminder: Companies subject to FMLA must provide unpaid sick leave according to the requirements spelled out in the Act. FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical situations for either the employee or a member of the employee’s immediate family. Depending on company policy, paid leave may be substituted for unpaid FMLA leave.

Employees are eligible to take FMLA leave if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, and have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.

ADA reminder: Companies subject to ADA must make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees or job applicants who are qualified for a position to perform the essential functions of that job. A disability under the ADA is more encompassing that you may think and extends to physical, mental and temporary conditions. A common “reasonable accommodation” for a disabled employee is to provide him/her with time off to attend doctor’s appointments, get therapy, or simply rest and recuperate. All employers with at least 15 employees are subject to comply with the ADA.

If your company falls under FMLA, make sure all your employees are aware of their FMLA rights by posting the FMLA poster as required by the Department of Labor. You should also have clearly written policies in your employee handbook, covering your sick time and your family and medical leave policies.

For more information about sick leave, FMLA, ADA and any other Human Resource issues, please send your questions to hrcounselorscorner@eastcoastrm.com. If you’d like email notification of all blog updates, just click the follow button at the bottom of the window.

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