As we have previously described, there are changes to State and Federal law granting employees leave related to COVID-19. Changes from the April 3rd budget bill in New York, however, includes a new sick leave law, unrelated to the pandemic. The new law will require employers to provide job-protected, paid sick leave to their employees beginning on January 1, 2021.
Reasons for Leave
Employees will be able to use job-protected, paid sick leave for the following reasons:
- For their own or their family member’s mental or physical illness or health condition, regardless of whether it has been diagnosed or requires medical care;
- For their own or their family member’s diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness or health condition;
- For various reasons due to domestic violence, either related to the employee or to a family member.
“Family member” under the sick leave law will include an employee’s:
- Domestic partner
- Parent, including parents-in-law
Length of Leave
The amount of leave an employee may be eligible for depends on employer size:
- An employer with 4 or fewer employees in a calendar year will be required to provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave each calendar year. However, if the employer earned a net income of greater than one million dollars in the previous tax year, the 40 hours of sick leave must be paid.
- An employer with between 5 and 99 employees in a calendar year will be required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year.
- An employer with 100 or more employees in a calendar year will be required to provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year.
The leave will be required to be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay.
Accrual and Usage of Leave
Employers may set either an “accrual” system for leave, or, may “front-load” their employees’ paid sick-leave banks. If using an accrual system, employees must accrue sick leave at a rate of at least 1 hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked. (Employers operating in New York City will note the familiarity with the NYC Earned Safe and Sick Time Act). If using a “front-loading” method, employers must provide their employees with the maximum amount of sick leave at the beginning of a calendar year. For this purpose, employers may determine their own “calendar year,” so long as it is a consecutive twelve-month period.
Employers may set a minimum increment for using sick leave of not greater than four hours.
Unused sick leave may be carried over into the following calendar year. But while the “bank” of unused time may carry over, employers may limit the actual “usage” of sick leave to the maximum allowed per year (either 40 hours or 56 hours, depending on employer size). Employees departing from employment are not eligible for payout of accrued but unused paid sick leave.
Finally, the budget bill authorizes the State Department of Labor (DOL) to publish regulations and guidance further implementing the sick-leave law. Employers should expect to see more information about the new sick leave law on the DOL’s website in the upcoming months.