On January 1, 2018, a slew of new paid time off (PTO) laws took effect in states across the nation. Lawmakers now acknowledge the importance of PTO in maintaining a healthy work/life balance among American workers and their families.
Paid sick leave
Connecticut was first, and Maryland just became the latest state to require paid sick time and safe leave (the latter refers to time off to deal with safety issues such as domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking). Washington and New York among the other states that are making positive strides with paid time off:
“Connecticut was the first state to require employers of 50 or more employees to provide paid sick leave to each of their in-state, full- or part-time service workers,” says attorney Scott Schwefel of Shipman, Shaiken and Schwefel.
The Connecticut Paid Sick Leave Act, enacted in 2012, has been amended over the past few years. Today, service workers such as retail salespersons, food preparation workers, nurses, and secretaries (to name a few of the more than 60 job titles) accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked during any given 365-day period.
The Healthy Working Families Act in Maryland requires businesses with at least 15 employees to offer paid sick and safe leave. The bill was passed by the General Assembly but vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan. The Assembly voted to override the veto, and the bill will now become law.
“Under the Maryland Act, employers are required to offer eligible employees the ability to accrue up to 40 hours of paid leave a year,” says attorney Terese Connolly of Culhane Meadows. “Employers must offer leave accrual at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked or award the entire 40 hours at the beginning of the year.”
Beginning January 1, 2018, Voter Initiative 1433 offers paid sick leave for most employees. “Paid sick leave can be used for any personal or family healthcare need, for school or business closing due to public health-related reasons, or for protection or relief from domestic violence,” explains certified business adviser Kevin Hoult of North Peninsula SBDC in Port Angeles, Washington.
Full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers accrue sick leave – paid at the employee’s normal hourly compensation – of no less than one hour for every 40 hours worked. Unused paid sick leave of 40 hours or less may be carried over to the following year.
New Yorkers can take up to eight weeks off at half of their average weekly wage. The length and pay will increase through 2020, when it reaches 10 weeks at 67 percent of the average weekly wage.
Meanwhile, New York state government and public employees, ranging from city garbage collectors to public school teachers, will receive paid time off to get screened for cancer. The law permits up to four hours per year for screenings.
Paid family and medical leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is the federal labor law that requires employers to provide their workers with unpaid medical leaves for qualified family and medical reasons. At the state level, new paid leave laws are gradually being enacted. For example:
On January 1, 2018, the New York State Paid Family Leave Benefits Law went into effect. “This law requires almost every employer in the state to provide employees of a certain tenure with up to eight weeks of paid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, bond with a child within the first 12 months after the child’s birth or adoption, or attend to family duties occasioned by the active military duty of employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent,” explains employment lawyer Mirande Valbrune.
In 2017, state legislators passed the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill. “Paid family leave will come next year [January 2019] and will be paid for by a deduction from employee wages and administered by the Washington State Employment Security Department,” says Hoult. Beginning in 2020, the program will allow workers to apply for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for pregnancy, personal illness, or illness of family members.
Employers should check their books
“As more of these laws and ordinances are passed, employers will continue to struggle with updating handbooks and payroll systems and implementing procedures to comply at the state and local levels,” says Connolly. Small businesses in particular might need to consult a business attorney to ensure compliance with the new laws.