Does your company offer employees paid sick leave or a paid time off bank? If not, you may be forced to in the near future.
The House of Representatives recently discussed a bill known as the Healthy Families Act (HFA) that would require paid sick leave as a benefit. It’s likely to come to a vote in the spring.
The act would cover any physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition. The leave would be legally protected — meaning employees could sue if the company discriminated against people who take time off.
In its current form, HFA would make it mandatory for all employers with 15 or more employees to provide at least seven paid sick days a year to FTEs. Part-time employees would get a prorated amount based on the number of hours they work.
HFA would not apply only to employees’ illnesses. Much like FMLA, it would also allow employees to tend to a sick family member.
As currently written, HFA defines “family member” to include any blood relative or anyone whose relationship with the employee is “the equivalent of a family relationship” (e.g., a domestic partner).
What if you already offer paid sick time?
If HFA passes, many employers won’t need to make any changes to their sick-time policies. That’s assuming the company already gives its employees paid sick leave at least equivalent to the HFA seven-day minimum.
It’s unknown at present what the passage of the bill would mean for companies with PTO banks. This will have to be clarified in the final version of the bill. It’s possible that employers would be required to add seven provisional days to the existing bank to be used exclusively for sicknesses.
The bill would prohibit companies from reducing existing paid vacation or PTO time to offset the costs of complying with the mandatory sick days.
Fierce lobbying is expected on both sides of the bill, and passage is far from a certainty.