In September 2017, Rhode Island became the latest state to mandate paid sick time for employees who work within the state. State-mandated paid sick time is becoming more prevalent. Eight states across the country require it, including Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut.
Although many businesses have traditionally included paid sick time as part of their policies, other sectors have not, including retail and restaurant companies. The companies that have not had sick time policies will feel the most impact from the state requirements, but all companies in states with mandated sick time should compare how their policies measure up to their state’s sick time regulations. Exceptions and nuances abound with the sick leave laws, and some of the measures may cover employees that are not covered by current policies.
Rhode Island companies with more than 18 employees are required to have a paid sick time policy beginning in 2018. Employees must have at least three paid sick days available to use for the care of themselves or a family member in 2018, which increases to four in 2019 and five in 2020. It does not cover independent contractors, subcontractors, work-study participants, employees employed by the state or municipality and health care workers who are not obligated to work a regular schedule and receive a higher rate than workers performing the same task. Construction workers who work under a collective bargaining agreement do not have to have sick time policies in place until July 1, 2018.
The Rhode Island law applies to temporary and seasonal employees. Temporary employees can access sick leave benefits after 180 days after the start of their employment. Seasonal employees can access sick leave benefits after 150 days of employment. Paid time off must equal the hourly rate of the employee.
The Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law took effect on July 1, 2015, and companies had to modify their paid time off policies for 2016. Under the law, companies with more than 11 employees must provide all employees, including part-time, per-diem and seasonal help, with up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. Companies with fewer than 11 employees are still required to provide sick time, but the time off does not have to be paid.
Employees must notify their employer in advance before using their earned sick time, except in the event of an emergency. Generally speaking, employers cannot ask for a doctor’s note or other evidence of the sick time unless the employee misses more than three consecutive workdays due to sickness.
Paid sick leave legislation took effect for Vermont companies on Jan. 1, 2017. Employees earn up to one hour of earned sick leave for every 52 hours worked and can use up to 24 hours of sick time in 2017 and 2018 and up to 40 hours per year starting in 2019.
Of the New England states, Vermont has the most restrictive scope limitation, excluding only businesses with five or fewer full-time employees. Employers are permitted to have a waiting period of up to a year after Jan. 1, 2017 or from the first day of employment, whichever is later. Unlike in Rhode Island, Vermont’s paid sick leave law does not extend the benefit to part-time employees who work fewer than 20 hours per week or seasonal employees who work less than 20 weeks per year. State and federal government employees are not eligible to use the benefit nor are per diem health care employees.
The Connecticut paid sick time law has been in effect since Jan. 1, 2012. Of the New England states, the Connecticut law has the most generous exception for small employers, applying only to businesses with more than 50 employees. It requires that employees be able to use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. Employees hired after the law’s effective date must work 680 hours before being able to access paid sick time. Under the Connecticut law, paid time off must be equal to the greater of the employee’s hourly wage or the state’s minimum wage. Employers may require documentation if the employee uses more than three consecutive days of sick leave.
How Companies Can Navigate Mandatory Sick Leave Requirements
Employers that have existing sick time policies should review their state requirements to ensure that under the employer’s plan, employees can still access the same amount of paid sick time for the same reasons and with the same protections as provided under the state law. For more information about how paid sick time policies may affect you, please contact us here.
Grafton “Cap” Willey is a Managing Director in the Tax Group at CBIZ & MHM. He can be reached at or 401.626.3213 or GWilley@cbiztofias.com.
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