Monday, February 20, 2017

Employee Sick Leave Act Amended – Already

You have to wonder about legislation that is amended within the first month of its enactment. How flawed is it if the legislature is already fixing it? That’s just what has happened with the Employee Sick Leave Act, which only took effect on January 1st of this year. In a way, employers should be grateful because the amendments have answered a couple of important questions about the Act.

Two of the simpler amendments are expansion of the list of family members for whom an employee may now use their sick leave to care for. The list now includes stepchild and domestic partner. Pretty much the only family missing now is the dog or cat. Additionally, the amendments specifically exclude employees of railroad from coverage under the Act. The rest of the amendments are a little trickier.

For instance, the amended Act expands the sick leave benefits covered by the Act to “any paid or unpaid time available to an employee as provided through an employment benefit plan or paid time off policy to be used as a result of absence from work due to personal illness, injury, or medical appointment.” It’s a little confusing but this seems to indicate that if an employer offers employees unpaid time off, for instance in the event that the employee cannot work due to illness but has exhausted all other benefit time, then an employee can access this leave for family members as well now.

Thankfully for employers, the Act now specifically excludes collectively bargained sick leave provisions that differ from the Act. Similarly, the amendments confirm that employers can require verification of proper use of the leave for family members on the same basis as is required when the use is for the employee’s own illness, injury or medical appointment. Finally, the amendments clarify that the Act does not encompass worker’s compensation, disability or other insurance policies which might pay an employee who cannot work.

Employers should once again review their policies to ensure they conform with the new–new Act. With all the confusion though, it may be best to not bind this policy with the rest of your manual just yet. We’re waiting to add cats and dogs.