Kentucky Leave Laws


Vacation Leave

In Kentucky, employers are not required to provide employees with vacation benefits, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract. See Berrier v. Bizer, 57 S.W.3d 271 (Kent. Sup. Ct. 2001).

An employer may lawfully establish a policy or enter into a contract denying employees payment for accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment. See Berrier v. Bizer, 57 S.W.3d 271 (Kent. Sup. Ct. 2001).

An employer may also lawfully establish a policy or enter into a contract disqualifying employees from payment of accrued vacation upon separation from employment if they fail to comply with specific requirements, such as giving two weeks’ notice or being employed as of a specific date of the year. See Berrier v. Bizer, 57 S.W.3d 271 (Kent. Sup. Ct. 2001).

An employer is required to pay accrued vacation to an employee upon separation from employment if its policy or contract requires it. See Berrier v. Bizer, 57 S.W.3d 271 (Kent. Sup. Ct. 2001).

An employer is not required to pay accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment if the employer’s established policy or employment contract is silent on the matter. See Berrier v. Bizer, 57 S.W.3d 271 (Kent. Sup. Ct. 2001).

An employer may cap the amount of vacation leave an employee may accrue over time. See Berrier v. Bizer, 57 S.W.3d 271 (Kent. Sup. Ct. 2001).

An employer may implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy requiring employees to use their leave by a set date or lose it. See Berrier v. Bizer, 57 S.W.3d 271 (Kent. Sup. Ct. 2001).


Sick Leave

Kentucky law does not require employers to provide employees with sick leave benefits, either paid or unpaid. An employer in Kentucky may be required to provide an employee unpaid sick leave in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act or other federal laws.


Holiday Leave

Kentucky law does not require private employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid holiday leave. KY Labor Cabinet – Workplace Standards Regulations In Kentucky, a private employer can require an employee to work holidays.

A private employer does not have to pay an employee premium pay, such as 1½ times the regular rate, for working on holidays, unless such time worked qualifies the employee for overtime under standard overtime laws. If an employer chooses to provide either paid or unpaid holiday leave, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.

State holidays

Visit our Kentucky State Holidays page for a list of holidays recognized and observed by the state of Kentucky as well as information regarding state laws governing holiday leave for public employers and employees.


Jury Duty Leave

An employer is not required to pay an employee for responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury.

An employer may not discharge, penalize, threaten, or otherwise coerce an employee who receives and/or responds to a jury summons or who serves on a jury.

KY Statute 29A.160


Voting Leave

Kentucky law requires employers to provide employees with at least four (4) hours of time off to vote or to obtain an absentee ballot. The law prohibits an employer from penalizing an employee for taking time off to vote unless the employee fails to vote for reasons that were within the employee’s control.

The law is not clear whether an employer’s failure to pay an employee for the voting leave constitutes a “penalty” as intended by the law. To be eligible for voting leave, an employee must request the leave at least one day prior to the date the leave will be taken. The employer may specify which hours the employee can take off.

Also, an employer must permit an employee to take time off to train and serve as an election officer. The employer may specify which hours the employee can be absent from work to train or serve as an election officer, to the extent possible. KY Statute 118.035


Bereavement Leave

Kentucky law does not require employers to provide employees bereavement leave or leave to attend funerals. Bereavement leave is leave that is taken by an employee due to the death of another individual, usually a close relative. Employers may choose to provide bereavement leave and may be required to comply with any bereavement policy or practice they maintain.


Family and Medical Leave

Kentucky labor laws do not require employers to provide employees with paid or unpaid family or medical leave.

Kentucky employers are required to provide employees with family and medical leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under these guidelines, employees are entitled to unpaid leave with the right to reinstatement. However, employees and employers must meet specific criteria to offer and receive this type of leave.

When looking at Kentucky sick leave law, employees will receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months. Based on FMLA guidelines, this leave renews every 12 months, so long as employees continue meeting the eligibility criteria.

Employees may take this leave for many reasons, including:

  • Bonding with a new child
  • Assisting an ailing family member
  • Recuperating from serious ailments
  • Caring for an injured or ill military family member

To receive benefits under the FMLA, employees must meet the following criteria:

  • Worked a minimum of 1250 hours for the employer during the previous year
  • Have worked for the employer for a minimum of one year
  • Work at a location with a minimum of 50 employees within 75 miles

Your length of leave may vary if you’re caring for a military family member. Employers can receive up to 26 weeks of leave per 12 months in these instances. This leave is only available per service member per injury.

When employees return to their employment, they must receive the exact (or equivalent) position based on Kentucky sick leave law. Also, employees are entitled to use their accrued paid leave during their sick leave.


Military Leave

Military members in Kentucky are entitled to the same benefits that the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) offers, including:

  • Employees have the right to continue group healthcare benefits for 24 months of their leave
  • Upon return, employees must be reinstated to the exact (or equivalent) previously held position
  • Employees must receive up to five years of unpaid leave for military service (with exceptions)

Members of the Kentucky National Guard are entitled to additional benefits outside of the existing USERRA guidelines. As a member of the state National Guard, you receive unlimited unpaid leave for training or active duty. Additionally, your employer must provide you with your position before leaving once your break is complete.

It’s important to note employers cannot discriminate against military employees. As such, they must not lose any seniority benefits upon their return to work.

As an added note, Kentucky employers cannot threaten employees to prevent them from enlisting in the military.

If these instances occur, employers could face significant fines and legal consequences. This applies to all service members regardless of the branch of the military they are a part of.


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