Earlier this month, the House of Representatives held a hearing on a bill that would make offering paid sick leave mandatory for employers.
If passed, the Healthy Families Act (HFA) would require any company with 15 or more employees to offer full-time workers seven paid sick days a year. Part-time employees would get a prorated amount based on how much they work.
Like the FMLA, the HFA would let employees take time to care for themselves or a family member. The leave would be legally protected — meaning employees could sue if they feel they’ve been retaliated against for using it.
The HFA is less strict than the FMLA, however. “Family member” includes any blood relative and anyone whose relationship with the employee is “the equivalent of a family relationship.” Any physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition could result in a protected absence.
What about current paid leave policies?
The bill says employers won’t need to change anything if they already give employees sick leave that’s at least equivalent to what’s required by HFA. But employers would be prohibited from eliminating leave they already offer in an attempt to offset the mandatory sick days.
That means companies won’t be able to reduce vacation time to offset the costs of additional sick time. And some experts interpet the provision to mean companies offering a general PTO bank would need to add seven sick days in addition to what’s already available.
What to expect
Attorney Mike Aitken, speaking at a recent Society for Human Resources Management conference in Washington, D.C., said he expects Congress to take a vote on the bill this spring.
The HFA was introduced in the Senate a few years ago and failed to move. But that was before President Obama — a vocal supporter of the bill — and an increased Congressional Democrat majority arrived in Washington.
So far, no states have made sick leave mandatory — measures have failed in California, Ohio, New Jersey and Washington. Three cities — San Francisco, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. — have passed mandatory sick leave laws.
We’ll keep you posted on the HFA.