Employer Paid Sick Days

Traditional Employee Benefit Now Mandated in Some States

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Paid sick days allow employees to take time off from work while they are ill without losing pay. This is a significant benefit for the employee and good news from the employer's perspective, too. It enables sick employees to stay home and not infect others in the workplace, a choice employees might not make if they were not paid.

How Are Paid Sick Days Accrued

Employees accrue sick days based on their employers' policies. Some base the number on years of service and the level of their position within the company and some allocate the same number to everybody. Some employers allow sick days to roll over from one year to the next, often capping at a certain number of days or hours, while others do not allow them to accumulate.

Historically, sick days have been a common perk that employers voluntarily provided. There is no federal law requiring employers to offer paid sick leave, but as of 2020, 12 states and Washington D.C. require employers to provide some form of paid time off for employees who are sick.

Paid Sick Days Are a Standard Benefit

Paid sick leave is part of the benefits package for 86% of full-time workers and 43% of part-time workers. Paid sick leave is provided for 76% of all US workers and is received by 91-94% of all professional and managerial employees according to a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Full-time workers in state and local government had access to paid sick days in 99% of jobs. Among all jobs, union employees received paid sick leave 91% of the time, while the number was 73% for nonunion employees. Service industry employees, at 61% and construction industry workers at 59% percent, are the least likely to receive paid sick leave followed by sales workers at 64%.

In most full-time positions, employees simply expect that some form of paid sick leave will be part of the benefits package. Indeed, most potential employees will not accept a position that does not provide a comprehensive benefits package.

Paid Sick Days Benefit Employers As Well As Employees

While paid sick days generally are viewed as an employee benefit, they are beneficial to employers as well. Paying an employee to stay home sick may not seem like it's good for the bottom line, but if that employee is contagious and comes into work, there is a risk that numerous employees could become sick, hurting the bottom line even more.

A sick employee at work is not fully working, too. The "Harvard Business Review" defines presenteeism as “the problem of workers’ being on the job but, because of illness or other medical conditions, not fully functioning.”

With paid sick leave, employees can be more comfortable with the prospect of staying home when sick, knowing they aren't losing a day's pay. Hopefully, this helps limit the number of contagious employees in the workplace, reducing the total number of workdays lost to illness.

Legislative Requirements About Paid Sick Days

There are no federal laws in the United States that require an employer to offer paid sick days as a benefit, but states and other local municipalities can enact such ordinances and laws.

In 2006, San Francisco became the first city in the US to mandate employers to provide paid sick days, and Connecticut became the first state to do so in 2011. California's law, enacted in 2015, requires employees to earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Accrual began on the first day of employment or July 1, 2015.

As of 2019, other states to require paid sick leave include Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Two more states, Nevada and Maine, passed paid sick leave laws in 2019. Nevada's paid sick leave law took effect at the start of 2020 and Maine's will take effect in 2021.

Pay attention to your state legislation as paid sick leave is a practice whose time has come.

Allocation of Paid Sick Days

Most organizations use a formula that assigns a certain number of sick day hours accrued during each pay period. Other employers make the paid sick days available at the beginning of a calendar year—although that is an option that may increase the risk for employers.

For example, if an employee uses all of his paid sick days in the first couple of months of the year, then quits, the employer has paid a year's worth of sick time to an employee who worked only a couple of months.

Some employers opt for a paid time off (PTO) policy that folds sick days, vacation days, and personal days into one bank of days that employees can use at their discretion. However, when employees have a bank of days, there is the risk that they will view all of the days as vacation time, failing to keep sick employees out of the workplace.

Please note that the information provided, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality. The site is read by a world-wide audience and ​employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct for your location. This information is for guidance, ideas, and assistance.

Article Sources

  1. National Conference of State Legislators. "Paid Sick Leave." Accessed April 6, 2020.

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employee Benefits in the United States - March 2019." Page 16. Accessed April 7, 2020.

  3. Harvard Business Review. "Presenteeism: At Work—But Out of It." Accessed April 7, 2020.

  4. National Conference of State Legislators. "Paid Sick Leave." Accessed April 6, 2020.