Prior to 2014, only four U.S. states had paid sick leave regulations on the books. Today, more than 30 do.

Driven by the desire for a greater work/life balance in the U.S., something that has long been a priority in Europe and other developed countries, employees and employers alike will benefit from the new paid sick leave rules. 

Without it, employees are either forced to take sick days unpaid, or if they can’t afford to do that, they come to work anyway. For employers, this jeopardizes public health and creates presenteeism challenges whereby employees are physically at their post, but not mentally accountable. 

Sick leave regulations across the U.S. typically apply to all employers operating in the state, city or municipality governing the sick leave regulation. In many cases, the regulations require that employers provide paid sick leave (in some areas, businesses with less than 10 employees are required to provide unpaid sick time). On average, these regulations allow employees to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 to 40 hours worked.  The maximum amount of paid sick leave accrued often caps at 30 to 40 hours and takes employees a calendar year to accrue a full week of paid sick leave. 

The regulations speak to carryover rules on any remaining unused sick leave as well.  Some states—not all—will allow employers to frontload the paid sick leave time, absolving themselves of any carryover requirements. 

Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia are a few of the most recent states to establish paid sick leave laws. For more information and to find out the paid sick leave requirements in your state, visit the National Conference of State Legislatures page.

Every employer should carefully review each applicable paid sick leave law and take the following into consideration:

  • Paid sick leave regulations provide the minimum guidelines to follow; employers may establish policies that are more generous.  
  • Employers who provide paid time off (PTO) need to carefully review whether their PTO program meets sick leave requirements.
  • Various employer HR policies, e.g., an attendance policy or disciplinary policy, need to be reviewed to ensure that it is not punitive against employees for using sick leave to which they are entitled.
  • Ensure that time and attendance systems are appropriately configured to track and manage sick time provided.

New compliance requirements at every level of employment

These new regulations will bring many benefits to employees and employers alike, but will also usher in a few challenges for employers at different levels of the organization.  

For the CFO, whose organization previously provided unpaid sick time and is now required to provide paid sick leave, there’s a new financial consideration. 
Similarly, the COO may be challenged with operationalizing through a flurry of absenteeism activity as the paid sick leave rule(s) takes effect. 

The HR manager will have to add the paid sick leave rule(s) to their compliance oversight, and will have to increase their consulting with floor supervisors and employees. After all, paid sick leave adds a new dimension in workforce management.  

The manager/floor supervisor will have to consider how he or she will meet daily production quotas if there’s a potential for more employees to stay home when they’re sick. Undoubtedly, there will be a learning curve when it comes to roles and responsibilities amid competing business priorities.  What does this mean for engagement and turnover down the road, and the potential for adversarial relationships between employee and employer that didn’t exist before? 

Contact your HUB broker for more information about meeting paid sick leave regulations.