Everything You Need to Know About Paid Sick Leave

On July 1, 2015, the ‘Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014’ will take effect in California.

Also referred to as ‘CA Paid Sick Leave,’ this law essentially states that certain employers must give their employees paid sick leave to take care of themselves and their family members, regardless of whether they are full time, part-time or temporary employees. California is the third state to adopt this progressive legislation, and an estimated 6.5 million workers will be affected.

Allowing sick workers to stay home and rest may seem like a no brainer to some, but according to the National Partnership for Women & Families, ‘Nearly four in 10 private sector workers — and more than 80 percent of low-wage workers — do not currently have paid sick days to care for their own health. That means that at least 43 million workers have no access to paid sick days at all, and millions more cannot earn paid sick time they can use to care for a sick child or family member.‘ (source)

That’s a lot of sick people being forced to choose between their health and their paycheck.

Until now, that is.

The Tipping Point

Paid Leave is having a moment. California’s ordinance is part of a growing nationwide trend towards increased workers’ rights and income equality – particularly for temporary and part-time employees. From Tacoma, WA to the entire state of Connecticut, new Paid Sick Leave policies are popping up daily in progressive cities, states and companies across America.

The movement has grown exponentially in the last two years, prompting Washington, D.C. and the mainstream media to take note. In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama even called for nationwide legislation that would allow paid time off for workers and their family members, stating:

I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own.  And since paid sick leave won where it was on the ballot last November, let’s put it to a vote right here in Washington.  (Applause.)  Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s the right thing to do. - President Barack Obama, 2015 State of the Union Address

However, even with all of the media buzz and political support, a national Paid Sick Leave law is still far off. The result is an open playing field on which state and municipal governments can adopt Paid Sick Leave as they see fit. And as the Paid Sick Leave movement grows across the US, so do its many moving parts.

Unintended Consequences

With each passing ordinance comes a new set of eligibility, accrual and usage requirements, making the [multi-]jurisdictional landscape for corporate compliance increasingly complex.

As California’s ordinance takes effect on July 1, 2015, for example, companies with employees in San Francisco will have to comply with two sets of minimum requirements (city and state) or run the risk of incurring penalties and fines. Their employees will also receive notifications of their city and state paid leave rights and will have to make sense of the two different sources of government literature to determine their eligibility under the laws.

It’s an increasingly convoluted and error-prone requirement, and this is only the beginning.

So go Facebook and Microsoft, so goes the nation?

Individual corporations including Facebook and Microsoft also stepped into the arena recently and voluntarily adopted their own Paid Sick Leave policies in support of income equality and workers’ rights. These corporate policies supersede city/state ordinances (so long as they meet minimum expectations), and they add a third layer of complexity and controversy to the future of workers’ rights in the United States.

That’s because Microsoft’s March 2015 and Facebook’s May 2015 policy announcements didn’t just comply with the legal minimums established by the law. Rather, the tech giants introduced big, statement-making policy changes that will set new standards not just for their own employees, but also for their contractors and suppliers in the US. As these policies are implemented over the next year, they will significantly raise the bar beyond government-mandated Paid Sick Leave minimums and lay the bricks for suppliers and competitors to follow suit.

Today, I am pleased to announce that we are implementing a new set of standards on benefits for contractors and vendors who support Facebook in the US and do a substantial amount of work with us. These benefits include a $15 minimum wage, minimum 15 paid days off for holidays, sick time and vacation, and for those workers who don’t receive paid parental leave, a $4,000 new child benefit for new parents. This will give both women and men the flexibility to take paid parental leave, an important step for stronger families and healthier children. - Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

Who Will Be Affected?

A significant cultural shift is taking place in the US, and the pace of change can be seen from coast to coast. As of June 30, 2015, Paid Sick Leave laws are or will soon be in place in 23 jurisdictions across the country – four states, one county, the District of Columbia and 17 cities. That’s up more than 1000% from 2008 when Sick Leave acts solely existed in San Francisco and the District of Columbia. And most laws have passed within the last two years.

In California, an estimated 6.5 million workers formerly without sick time will begin to accrue it on July 1 when the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act takes effect. Though all eligible employees will begin to accrue paid leave on that date, those with existing Paid Sick Leave benefits won’t likely see a change unless their employers’ current policy fails to meet the minimum standards established by California law.

California employees without paid leave, however, will begin to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked and can begin to use those hours on the 90th day of employment following July 1 or their first day of employment (whichever’s later). Eligible employees can then take up to 24 earned hours (minimum) in a calendar year and carry over unused time to accrue maximum earned leave of 48 hours per year.

Eligible employers are required to give notice of their Paid Sick Leave policy to all employees, and many are scrambling to adjust their business and timekeeping practices accordingly to comply with the law. However, while many are worried about the increased costs Paid Sick Leave will bring about, early data shows that the new policies have actually increased productivity, reduced turnover, and slowed the spread of disease in the workplace – thereby reducing overall costs in locations where they have already taken effect.

What Does This Mean For You?

This is a constantly evolving space, and all employees/employers are encouraged to keep a close eye on relevant state and local laws in the months ahead. In particular:

San Diego

Although the San Diego Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance (‘San Diego Paid Sick Leave’) passed in 2014, this ordinance encountered opposition and is currently hold pending approval by the popular vote in 2016. Therefore, San Diego Employers and Employees will fall under the California state requirements in 2015. More on San Diego Paid Sick Leave > 

California 

California Employees should receive a notice from their employer with their specific Paid Sick Leave policies regarding usage, accrual and requesting off prior to July 1, 2015. Those seeking more information on Paid Sick Leave may benefit from reading through the Frequently Asked Questions on CA.gov: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Paid_Sick_Leave.htm

You can also reach out to us at any time with questions regarding CA Paid Sick Leave and your rights under the law: http://proveninc.com/contact.html

Everyone Else 

The following comparison chart provides a useful, up-to-date overview of all existing Paid Sick Day legislation across the US: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/work-family/psd/paid-sick-days-statutes.pdf.

Additionally, as-it-happens updates are typically covered by ThinkProgress, such as the June 12 passing of Oregon’s state-wide bill and the recent passing of Montgomery County, Maryland’s particularly strong version of the law.

Finally, those in locations without Paid Sick Leave should note that campaigns to enact legislation currently exist in Alaska, Arizona, Chicago, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montgomery County (Md.), Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia – as well as The Healthy Families act which advocates for a nationwide Paid Sick Leave policy (according to The National Partnership for Women and Families’ May 2015 report on current State and Local action).

Here’s to healthier workplaces and healthier families in 2015!