New paid leave laws keep coming! Just when you think you’ve mastered the existing laws, a new one is enacted and you have to review your policies and practices all over again. To help ease the burden, here are our top five tips for keeping abreast of the new paid leave landscape.
Tip #1: New Paid Family and Medical Leave Laws Require Employer Action
In 2019, Connecticut and Oregon passed comprehensive paid family and medical leave laws (PFML) bringing the total number of states that mandate PFML to eight, plus the District of Columbia. The trend suggests more states will follow. Because these laws differ greatly from one state to the next, you must review all those that apply to your organization and prepare to comply with their provisions by the applicable effective dates.
First, your organization must decide whether to use a private company plan to meet the state PFML requirements, where permitted and upon approval by the state, or if your employees will utilize the state-administered program. Even if you choose the latter, you’ll have employer responsibilities. For example, in most jurisdictions, you need to provide notice to employees of their rights under the PFML law, possibly at multiple times, such as when the law goes into effect, at the time of hire, upon notice of an employee’s request for leave, and annually. In addition, you likely need to display a workplace poster in affected locations.
Then, for states where employee payroll contributions fund the PFML program, your payroll team will need to deduct premiums at the appropriate rate, noting the deductions on pay stubs, and submit the contributions and wage reports to the state. Prior to benefits kicking in, you also should evaluate whether PFML benefits will be topped up by other company-provided benefits, or alternatively, whether overlapping company benefits (e.g., STD) may/should be offset by the amount of PFML benefits. In addition, if the PFML law offers job protection, practices should be implemented to ensure that adverse employment actions are not taken against employees who are out on PFML leave.
Tip #2: Focus on Accrual Requirements in Paid Sick Leave Laws
Generally, paid sick leave laws do not require an employer to provide paid sick leave. Instead, they specify that if you offer paid sick leave to employees, you must do so at a specified rate. Most often, you must allow employees to accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30-40 hours worked, up to a cap. Each jurisdiction, whether state or local government, will specify the accrual rate, the cap on accruals and usage, and whether unused sick time may be carried over to the next year. The accrual requirements will be key in understanding whether your current sick leave policies meet the state/local mandate or if changes are needed in order to comply.
Tip #3: Kin Care Laws are based on Existing Sick Leave Policies
States continue to pass kin care (also called caregiver leave) laws which require employers to permit employees with sick leave benefits to use that time off to care for an ill or injured family member. Similar to the paid sick leave laws, kin care laws generally do not require an employer to provide paid sick leave or paid time off to care for a family member. But, if you do provide sick leave, these laws will allow employees to use that time off, or a portion thereof, to care for a family member. Take note that the family relationships covered by each kin care law differ so pay close attention to that when administering your policies.
Tip #4: Broad New Laws Are Mandating Paid Leave for Any Purpose
Maine and Nevada have opened new territory by mandating new accrued paid leaves that may be taken for any reason. Yes, you heard that correctly – paid time off with no strings attached. Nevada’s law, effective January 1, 2020, and Maine’s law, effective January 1, 2021, apply to employers in those states who have a threshold number of employees, namely 50 or more in Nevada and 10 or more in Maine. If your organization meets that coverage level, consider whether to add the new accrued leave to your existing leave policies, or if you will revise existing benefits to encompass these new entitlements.
Tip #5: Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault May Be Covered
Although some states have enacted separate “safe” laws to provide time off when an employee or the employee’s family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, some paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave laws incorporate these “safe” leave reasons as a permissible use of paid leave under the applicable law. If an employee needs time off for one of these reasons, check what laws are applicable to them because the employee may be entitled to paid leave benefits and/or job protection when taking that time off.
ReedGroup Whitepaper Provides More Details
At ReedGroup, we are committed to keeping you informed about the latest developments in leave laws and absence management topics. To that end, we’ve created a new whitepaper entitled “Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family and Medical Leave Laws: Staying Ahead of the Trend” to offer more details about these developing paid leaves. Please check it out to learn our additional best practices!