Lots of employers understand that paid leave benefits can be a major concern for workers. A recent SHRM survey found that 27% of organizations offer some type of paid family leave to support employees when they become parents, or have to take care of a medical issue involving a family member or themselves.
Keeping Track of Medical Leave Laws
It’s natural to want employees to be able to stay home with new babies, or to take care of an illness or injury. At the same time, with so many state and local sick-leave laws on the books—each with different requirements—keeping track of them can be a major administrative challenge.
Federal law requires certain employers to allow unpaid leave for covered reasons to qualified employees. Many state and local jurisdictions require private employers to offer paid sick leave and/or paid family leave.
Each law has different rules regarding coverage, how the benefits and leave can be used, employee accrual rates, and waiting periods. Some laws even let workers use paid leave accruals as “safe time” when things like domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or harassment are involved.
Currently, there’s growing momentum behind adding new federal paid-leave initiatives—a number of congressional measures have been introduced recently. We’ll explore some of these below, and offer suggestions on how you can keep track of legislation that might affect you and your employees.
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Medical Leave Laws
Signed into law in 1993, the FMLA requires that covered large employers offer their employees unpaid leave for qualifying reasons.
- Employees can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave when they need to care for the birth of a baby, the adoption of a child, or placement of a foster child.
- They can also receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave to handle their own serious health condition, or a serious health condition of a covered family member.
- Employees may take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave for the qualifying exigency of a spouse, child or parent who is a military member on covered active duty.
- In addition, employers must adhere to state and local paid-leave laws.
Right now, there are a number of proposed federal bills that would introduce new types of paid leave. Here are three such bills that have been making their way through congress:
- The Working Parents Flexibility Act establishes tax-exempt leave savings accounts for child care. Employees and employers would take part in funding the accounts.
- The New Parents Act would let new parents draw from social security, and use funds for paid leave, for up to three months. In exchange, they would delay or reduce future social security benefits.
- The Child Rearing and Development Leave Empowerment (CRADLE) Act is also tied to social security benefits, and would require that parents take leave from work to receive it.
Many states have implemented unpaid family and medical leaves. Some states require employers to offer paid family leave.
Beyond federal and state laws, there are also plenty of local jurisdictions with their own paid sick-leave laws on the books. Some of these exist in places where there is no statewide law on the books.
In short, while paid and unpaid -leave can be vital to workers, it can create administrative challenges for employers, especially if you operate in different states and localities.
How can you ensure you comply with different leave laws, especially if you employ workers in multiple states? To start, do you have one baseline policy, or do you adhere closer to laws based on each location?
- Some employers opt for a solution that provides the benefit most beneficial to the employee in the jurisdiction where they operate.
- Handling paid sick-leave compliance location by location may make it easier to stay compliant with local changes.
- However, it can create more administrative work, and might even be costlier.
- You might even create issues among employees and workgroups when different types of paid leave exist from worksite to worksite.
- Having a baseline policy in place that adheres to federal guidelines might help simplify or do away with potential workplace issues.
- From there, you can create supplemental policies when it’s necessary to do so because of state or local provisions.
- Remember that certain states require that you include a policy on the requirements for leave under their regulation in your handbook if you offer a handbook. Many jurisdictions also require postings of the requirements.
- If you employ workers in different cities or states, you might want to perform an audit on your paid sick-leave benefits. This can help ensure that you’re currently in compliance with different laws.
- An audit can yield key information that can help you make appropriate decisions about benefits, especially when you’re trying to balance costs with different state and local leave laws.
One of the most challenging compliance issues for any organization is developing leave policies that take all federal, state, and local laws into consideration. Keeping as close an eye as possible on what’s happening in your state, and in the local jurisdictions where you operate, can help.
The way you administer and communicate your benefits program, and support workers in times of emergency or urgent need, can help encourage a greater level of trust among employees. Learn more about how BeneTrac can help you support a healthy workplace. Contact a BeneTrac representative for a consultation.