Georgia Sick Leave and Family Care Act


Eligible Employees

Georgia labor laws do require private employers to provide employees with paid or unpaid sick leave. However, if certain employers from the private sector provide sick leave, the Georgia Family Care Act encourages those employers to allow employees that work at least 30 hours per week to use accrued sick leave to care for immediate family members. Unless extended by an Act of Georgia’s General Assembly, the Family Care Act will be repealed on July 1, 2023. GA Code 34-1-10

Conversely, the Georgia sick leave law states that full-time public employees that work for the State may use up to five (5) hours of sick leave every two (2) weeks if compensated biweekly. On the other hand, full-time public employees who are compensated once a month earn about ten (10) hours of sick leave. State Personnel Board Rule 478-1-.16 – Absence From Work Public employees that work for counties, cities, universities, or other public employers may be eligible for different sick leave amounts.

Lastly, some employees have been working for at least twelve (12) months and have accumulated no less than 1,250 hours with a single employer. These employees could use a maximum of twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA also protects employees against termination, demotion, or deduction of hours.


Covered Employers

Like several states in the US, Georgia does not require private employers to provide their employees with paid or unpaid sick leaves. Nonetheless, many companies, especially big businesses, offer this benefit to attract more applicants.

If the company implements a paid sick leave policy, that is the only time that they are in any legal obligation to grant the leave. On the other hand, employees working in the public sector in Georgia are granted paid sick leaves.

The Family Care Act covers companies or businesses with at least 25 employees. Since there aren’t any laws requiring businesses to provide employees with paid leaves, the Family Care Act applies to employers who voluntarily provide this benefit.

Oddly enough, the law does not cover employers who provide employee stock ownership plans to their employees. Even though the State of Georgia implements the Family Care Act, it’s important to note that it’s also subject to the federal law FMLA. This law applies to employers with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius from the work location.


Paid Versus Unpaid Sick and Safe Leave

Government employees that work for the State of Georgia must have access to paid sick leaves of up to ten (10) hours every month. Public employees that work for counties, cities, universities, or other public employers may be eligible for different sick leave amounts.

Under the FMLA, public and private employers with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius from the work location must provide their employees with up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave for family and medical purposes.


Carry Over from Year to Year

Private employers that chose to provide employees with sick leave may set accrual limits for their policy. This includes:

  • requiring employees to use or lose their sick leave within a certain time period
  • allow employees to carries over accrued sick leave from year to year up to a certain accrual limit

The Georgia sick leave law for state employees allows employees to accrue sick leave year over year up to a specific amount. After an employee accrues that amount, they will no longer accrue additional sick leave until they have used already accrued sick leave. State Personnel Board Rule 478-1-.16 – Absence From Work

The FMLA does not permit any annual leaves to be carried over for two (2) consecutive years (one year to the next). Additionally, suppose an employee’s leave hinders the organization’s current operations and may cause adverse effects. The leave may be carried over to the following year with the employee’s consent.


Year Defined

Private employers that chose to provide employees with sick leave may specify when a year begins for sick leave accrual and usage, as long as the year is a regular and consecutive 12-month period. This means that businesses can utilize any 12-month period they prefer, including the calendar year, anniversary year, fiscal year, or any other 12-month period.


Permitted Uses

Private employers may establish the rules that govern employees’ use of sick leave. The Georgia Family Care Act encourages those employers to allow employees that work at least 30 hours per week to use accrued sick leave to care for immediate family members. GA Code 34-1-10

Public employees of the State of Georgia may use the paid sick leave for the following purposes:

  • Personal illness
  • Isolation because of exposure to highly contagious disease
  • Isolation because of a disease that may endanger other people’s health
  • Access to dental and/or medical care
  • Absence because of accident, illness, or death of an immediate family member

Any employee may use the unpaid sick leave under the FMLA law for the following purposes:

  • Serious health condition
  • Provision of care to a family member with a serious health condition
  • Bonding with a new child, whether through birth, foster placement, or adoption
  • Qualifying military-related needs
  • Provision of care to a family member in the military who suffered an injury while on active duty

Family Member Defined

The Family Care Act only covers immediate family members. The employee may only use up to five (5) days of their paid sick leave to take care of their child, spouse, parent, grandparent, or grandchild. GA Code 34-1-10

Nonetheless, the employee may also refer to their most recent income tax return. If there are dependents shown on this document other than those listed above, the employee may use the paid sick leave for these dependents.


New Employees’ Wait-to-Use Period

Private employers are permitted to establish at their discretion when new employees become eligible to take accrued sick leave.

Public employees become eligible to take sick leave based on the rules established by the government entity that establishes sick leave requirements.


Sick and Safe Leave Use Requirements and Limits

Private employers are permitted to establish the use sick leave requirements and limits for their employees. Although encouraged by the Family Care Act, private employers are not obligated to guarantee that employees receive at least five (5) days of paid leave to care for a family member. Additionally, the employee must comply with the employer’s policy regarding the accretion of paid sick leave.


Payment for Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Upon Separation from Employment

Private employers are not obligated to pay employees for accrued but unused sick leave upon separation from employment unless they have a policy or practice that provides for the benefit. This means that, unless an employer has a policy or practice that establishes otherwise, an employer is not required to pay an employee for unused sick leave if they resign voluntarily, retire, are laid off, or are terminated for cause.

Upon the employee’s retirement or if the employee leaves the state of employment, they will not be compensated for the unused paid sick leave. The only exemption would be employees under the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia (TRSGA).

Active members of TRS may be compensated for their unused sick leave upon their retirement. That is, only if they have not been credited for the sick leave or any kind of leave prior. Additionally, the TRS member must have accrued no less than 60 days of unused sick leave at the time of their retirement.


Alternative Eligible Leave Policies

Public and government employees may enjoy several benefits as long as they are able to provide the necessary sick leave requirements. This can range from short-term or long-term disability or sickness benefits to the possibility of early retirement. Here’s what you need to know about it:

Short-Term Disability Insurance

For every year, public employees may earn up to 720 hours of paid sick leave or a total of 90 days over a 12-month period. This is meant to protect the employee’s income in the event of a disability or a long-term illness. Accrued sick leaves over 90 days are forfeited.

You can use the employer’s benefits program to avail of short-term disability insurance. However, this often requires a 30-day waiting period before you receive a certain percentage of your full income.

Long-Term Disability Insurance

All government departments will keep track of your accrued paid sick leaves over 90 days. This provision ensures that you can still use the forfeited sick leave balance for full income protection. Of course, this is only applicable if you suffer a long-term illness or disability that incapacitates you for more than 90 days,

You can also purchase long-term disability insurance through the flexible benefits program. However, this requires a 180-day waiting period before you can receive a certain percentage of your full income.


Employee Notice of Use Requirements

Because private employers are not required to provide employees with either paid or unpaid sick leave, employers who chose to do so are free to establish the notice requirements employees must use to request sick leave. Frequently, employers provide different notice requirements depending on whether the need for sick leave is foreseeable or not foreseeable, e.g. emergencies.


Filing a Complaint, Complaint Procedure, and Penalties

The absence of requiring paid sick leaves from employers already provides us a glimpse of the State’s leniency regarding the matter. For example, the Family Care Act does not include any penalty or enforcement provision. Furthermore, the statute even states that the Family Care Act shall not be used as a cause of action against any employer. GA Code 34-1-10

While the Family Care Act does not include enforcement provisions, the Family and Medical Leave Act does. Employees may file complaints with the Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor claiming that an employer has violated their FMLA rights. However, an allegation of an employer’s violation of an employee’s FMLA rights must be raised within two years. Failure to report the violation within that time frame will nullify the violation, resulting in non-enforcement of the said penalties and sanctions.


Relationships With Other Laws

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to use up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leaves to take care of a family member. If the family member suffered an injury while on active duty, they can use up to 26 weeks of unpaid leaves. Under the FMLA’s rules, employers may require employees to use sick at the same time they are using FMLA leave.

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We hope you find our newsletters help you better navigate employment and labor law issues.