Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Coming Soon? - Free Enterprise
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Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Coming Soon?

Today is National Employee Health & Fitness Day. While we wait to see if any true changes to our healthcare system come to fruition, one change may be coming, and it's one many small business owners would not like. Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation that would require employees to receive at least 7 paid sick days per year.

As the New York Times reported, the Healthy American Families Act would require businesses with more than 15 employees to grant no less than one hour of paid sick leave per every 30 hours worked, up to a total of 7 paid sick days per year. In addition to using this paid time to recover when they are sick, employees would be able to use it to care for a child, parent, spouse or "any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship."

As currently drafted, here are some other details of what may become federal law for businesses with more than 15 employees:

  • Employees would be eligible to start using accrued sick time after 60 days of employment;
  • Employees would need to make a reasonable effort to accommodate the operational needs of their employer;
  • Employers could require certification from a health care provider if the absence exceeds 3 days;
  • In cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, employees could use the time to seek medical (including psychological) services, to relocate, to seek victim services and/or to take legal action; and
  • Employers would be required to post information about paid sick leave accrual.

The Times notes that similar legislation was attempted repeatedly during the Bush administration. The current bill's preamble notes that more than half private sector employees, and a vast majority of low wage workers have no paid sick leave, requiring them to choose between losing pay (and perhaps losing a job) and caring for themselves or their family.

Though businesses with more than 50 employees are subject to Family Medical Leave Act requirements, FMLA leave need not be paid. There is currently no federal law mandating paid sick leave for employers of any size.

San Francisco and Washington D.C. already require paid sick leave. The city of Milwaukee as well as many states are currently considering doing so as well. State or local requirements beyond the proposed federal law would still apply, with the federal law (if passed) acting as the lower limit of what must be offered.