What Is Paid Sick Leave: PSL Explained

Kaitlin Edwards | Nov 26, 2023

What Is Paid Sick Leave: PSL Explained

Paid sick leave (PSL) is time off that allows employees to recover from short-term illnesses or attend medical appointments without losing their regular wages.

Unlike unpaid leave, which is federally mandated under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), PSL is employer-funded. Generally, employees accrue this type of leave based on hours worked.

For instance, you could earn one hour of PSL for every 30 hours you work, up to a set limit, such as seven days per year. This means if employees become ill, they don’t have to choose between their paycheck and getting well.

While PSL is common for many U.S. workers, it’s not universally guaranteed — the U.S. federal government doesn’t have a standard for paid sick leave, a stark contrast to other industrialized nations.

Temporary benefits programs popped up but have mostly faded away. The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued guidelines, and several states like California, Colorado, and Arizona have even established their own paid sick leave laws. What employers are left with is a patchwork of state and local laws that either expand access or give employers more control over PSL policies.

How Does Paid Sick Leave Help Employees?

In today’s work landscape, offering paid sick leave is more than just a courtesy — it’s a strategic move for your business. So how exactly does paid sick leave benefit employees? Let’s break it down.

Promotes Work/Life Balance

Ensuring employees have a good work/life balance is critical to retention and satisfaction. Paid sick leave allows employees to take care of their health without the stress of losing income. This may be the reason that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), full-time employees are more likely to have access to this benefit compared to part-time workers.

When an employee or a family member falls ill, knowing that they can accrue and carry over a certain amount of time for paid sick days helps them balance commitments at home with work deadlines.

Shows Employees They Are Appreciated

If you’ve ever wondered what makes employees stick around, the answer often lies in how much they feel appreciated and valued.

Beyond compliance with state laws and guidelines, PSL allows you to show your workforce that you care. Eligible employees see PSL as more than a perk — it’s a statement that their well-being is a priority to the people they work for.

Allows Employees To Fully Recover From Illness

Even a runny nose or a mild headache could prevent employees from doing their best work, reducing productivity and possibly creating resentment toward employers.

In situations where an employee needs specialized medical care, PSL offers immediate relief and the time required for long-term recovery. Paid sick leave enables employees to take the necessary time to see to their health care without worrying about their paychecks.

Protects Other Employees From Disease

Nobody wants to catch a cold from a coworker who felt obligated to come into the office because they couldn’t afford unpaid leave. This is especially true during a public health emergency or for workers who often collaborate with vulnerable populations.

When employees can easily take paid sick days, they’re less likely to come to work sick, helping to maintain a healthier work environment. PSL helps workers recover from individual health conditions and services as a preventive care measure for others.

Is Paid Sick Leave Required by Law?

The legal landscape of paid sick leave includes different rules in each state. While the Family and Medical Leave Act provides some respite by mandating unpaid sick leave under certain conditions, the federal government currently lacks a sweeping paid sick leave law.

Examples of Paid Sick Leave Laws by State

States have taken the mantle to enact their own paid sick leave laws. Let’s consider a few:

  • California: Employers with even just one employee who works more than 30 days a year must offer paid sick leave. Employees can accrue up to 48 hours or six days per year.
  • New York: Private sector employers with five or more employees or a net income of over $1 million must provide paid sick leave, with the amount of time varying based on the size of the company.

Other states like Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon also have their own unique laws governing this area, each with its own stipulations about accruals and maximum usage per year.

Sick Leave Limits

The amount of time an employee can take off varies not just by state but often by the employer.

New York City has its own set of limits based on the employer’s size and net income. Employers need to consult state laws to adjust their company’s paid sick leave policy and keep employees aware of their rights.

Offering Paid Sick Leave in States That Don’t Require It

Plenty of states have mandatory paid sick leave, such as:

  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington, D.C.

However, for states without such laws, like Maine and Nevada, companies often have the discretion to offer this benefit as part of their employee benefits package.

While not legally required, it can serve as an attractive perk for potential hires and contribute to a more balanced work environment.

Possibilities of Federal Sick Leave Law

Although there’s currently no federal law requiring paid sick leave, there’s ongoing debate and advocacy pushing for a nationwide mandate. The urgency for paid sick leave grew considerably during the coronavirus pandemic.

Efforts at the national level have gained some traction — like the 2020 Build Back Better Act or the Healthy Families Act introduced in 2019 — but have ultimately failed to pass.

Even if the federal government does not pass legislation to guarantee paid sick leave, you have the power to offer it as a resource to your employees.

Which Employees Are Eligible for Sick Leave?

Eligibility for sick leave can differ based on federal and state laws as well as company policies. However, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, certain criteria must be met for unpaid sick leave:

  • Employment for at least 12 months with the same employer
  • At least 1,250 hours worked in the preceding 12 months
  • Employment at a location where 50 or more employees work within 75 miles

While FMLA leave is unpaid, employees have the option to use their accrued paid sick, vacation, or personal time as a substitute, provided it aligns with the employer’s policies.

Is There a Difference Between Sick Days and Sick Leave?

While often used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference. “Sick days” usually refer to a short-term absence, perhaps for a minor illness or doctor’s appointment.

“Sick leave,” on the other hand, is a more formal term often associated with longer absences due to more severe health conditions or even family medical issues. Sick leave is what typically kicks in under statutes like FMLA or when using paid family and medical leave.

Do Part-Time Workers Get Paid Sick Leave?

Employees don’t have to work nine-to-five jobs to benefit from paid sick leave. Part-time workers or those with irregular schedules are entitled to this benefit based on the average number of hours they worked over the past six months.

Regardless of their work schedule’s consistency, employees who are clocking in hours are likely entitled to some amount of paid sick time.

How Mosey Helps Employers Comply With PSL Requirements

If you want to offer PSL but don’t know where to start, you need a platform that allows you to follow state laws while helping employees. Mosey is your go-to business compliance management platform for effortlessly managing PSL compliance across all 50 states.

A complete system for payroll, HR, registration, and tax compliance, Mosey allows you to track current and upcoming laws to stay ahead of the curve. Sync your payroll data, receive automated alerts for important changes, and even create labor law notices.

With weekly summaries delivered to your email, Mosey ensures you never miss a beat. Compliance doesn’t have to be a headache. Contact Mosey today and make compliance a breeze.

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