A well-written sick policy is an essential aspect of any workplace as it outlines the procedures and guidelines that employees and employers should follow when someone falls ill. Some states and local laws require that sick leave, whether paid or unpaid, be available to employees, and those policies must also follow the guidelines of that location.
PROVIDING EMPLOYEE SUPPORT AND A SAFE WORKPLACE
An effective sick policy ensures that employees receive the necessary care and support when they are ill and protects the health and safety of other employees. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that they create a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, which includes having a clear sick policy with procedures on how to use it. Since sick leave is required in many areas of the United States, it’s also good to note that an employee may be eligible to use this time to take care of a covered family member.
PROVIDING PAID SICK TIME IS NOT JUST ABOUT FOLLOWING THE LAW
We recommend that all employers, even when it’s not required by law provide a paid sick leave benefit to their employees. This will help ensure that employees do not feel compelled to come to work when they are sick, which can result in the spread of illness among other employees.
KEY ASPECTS OF A WELL-WRITTEN SICK TIME POLICY
The sick policy should have clear procedures for employees to report their illness, including who they should notify and when, and how – or if - they should provide proof of their illness (keeping in mind that some states and localities have restrictions on asking for doctor’s notes). The policy should also outline the duration of the sick leave that an employee is entitled to take, and whether they will need to provide a “return to work” doctor's certification.
Employers should also ensure that the sick policy outlines the confidentiality of an employee's illness. Employees have the right to keep their health information private, and employers should only share details related to an employee’s sickness to those who have an absolute need to know. If in doubt, others should know nothing more than that the person is “taking a sick day” today.
Here is a current (as of March 2023) list of states or localities, that require a paid sick policy or will soon be enforcing a paid sick leave policy for employers to follow:
- California (at the state level plus many local policies that differ including Berkeley, City of West Hollywood, Emeryville, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Monica)
- District of Columbia
- Illinois (recently passed at the state level and takes effect 1/1/2024, plus local policies for Chicago and Cook County)
- Maryland (plus local policies for Montgomery County)
- Minnesota (local policies for Bloomington, City of St. Paul, Duluth, and Minneapolis)
- New Jersey
- New Mexico (plus local policies for Bernalillo County)
- New York (at the state level plus local policies for New York City and Westchester County)
- Pennsylvania (local policies for Allegheny County, Philadelphia, and Pittsburg)
- Rhode Island
- Washington (at the state level plus local policies for Seattle, and Tacoma)
The specific requirements of these state/local sick leave laws can vary. Some areas require employers to provide a specific number of paid sick days per year, while others may have different accrual rates based on the size of the employer or the employee's length of service. Additionally, some territories allow for sick leave to be used not just for an employee's own illness, but also to care for a family member's health needs, or even circumstances beyond a sickness.
In conclusion, a sick policy is a critical aspect of any workplace. Employers have a responsibility to create a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, and a sick policy is one way to achieve this. An effective sick policy should include paid sick leave, clear procedures, and confidentiality. It is important for employers to be aware of the specific sick leave laws in their state to ensure they are in compliance and providing their employees with the necessary benefits and protections. Employers who implement a comprehensive sick policy will benefit from a healthier and more productive workforce.
To have your Company’s current sick leave or PTO policy reviewed against applicable laws in your area, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camille Pavelko – HR Administrator, PEAR Core Solutions, Inc. – www.pearcoresolutions.com