Iowa sick leave law does not require private employers to offer unpaid or paid sick leave benefits. However, many private employers opt to provide these benefits to their employees.
If your employer has a sick leave policy, they must abide by the guidelines outlined in your employment contract, or they could face significant penalties.
Instead of having state-level sick leave requirements, most employers must adhere to federal sick leave policies. Known as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), this federal leave option helps employees that require time off for severe illnesses. That said, employees must meet the requirements to be eligible for this leave.
The eligibility requirements to take time off under the Family Medical Leave Act include:
- Must have worked for their employer for a minimum of 12 months
- Must have provided at least 1,250 hours of work in the previous year
- Must work at locations with 50+ staff within a 75-mile radius
Employees must also use their sick leave balance for specific situations along with the eligibility requirements for sick time. Iowa employment laws allow you to use your FMLA leave for the following instances:
- Bonding with a new child
- Caring for an ill or injured family member
- Recovering from a severe ailment for a period of time
- Caring for a sick or injured military family member
During your period of absence, you are entitled to continue receiving your standard healthcare insurance from your employer. Additionally, employees can choose to use unused sick days during their leave instead of unpaid leave.
Family Medical Leave
Family medical leave for full-time or part-time employees can vary throughout Iowa. Private employers don’t have to offer family medical leave like standard medical leave. However, you can consider using FMLA to help care for an ailing family member.
An interesting facet of Iowa sick leave law is that unpaid sick leave must accrue for both full and part-time employees. If your employer offers a private medical leave plan, you should have a sick leave balance to rely on. This can help care for a sick child or any other family member.
Additionally, you can use your accrued sick leave benefits to heal from bodily injury, medical-related disabilities, and personal mental illness. This leave is also essential for a pregnant employee experiencing a disability.
Another important type of employee benefit to consider as an employee in Iowa is parental leave. Fortunately, this area is also covered by the Family Medical Leave Act. While employed, eligible full-time employees can take parental leave to care for and bond with a new child.
Employers can also offer a private parental leave plan. Any policies outlining this type of leave must be in the company’s employee handbooks. Also, employers must provide any changes to this type of leave to every employee in writing.
Your parental leave could vary if you are expecting a new child and work with your spouse at the same company. In this instance, you will share your parental leave with your spouse. For example, you will receive six weeks of leave while your spouse receives the other six.
This process ensures the company doesn’t lose two employees simultaneously. Also, one of your duties of employment is to notify your employer when you will be taking your parental leave.
Another option for parental leave is pregnancy disability leave. It allows parents to take time off in the event of a pregnancy-related health concern. Although you cannot use it to bond with or care for a new child, it can help protect the mother’s health before and during childbirth.
Employee Protections for Sick Leave
When an employee opts to use private or federal sick leave, they are offered several protections.
Employment discrimination laws state that employers cannot discriminate against employees who exercise their right to take leave. Also, employment agreements must clearly outline private leave policies for employees to use.
After finishing sick leave credits, employers must maintain employment relationships with their staff. Employees are entitled to the same position upon arrival or an equivalent position. This also applies to medical leave provisions about disability leave law.
It’s important to note that employers cannot discriminate against and penalize employees who opt to take sick leave. This includes threatening or discouraging employees from using their leave for severe medical conditions.
If employers discriminate against individuals for using sick leave, employees can levy complaints against their employer with the Department of Labor.
Other Sick Leave Laws
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, there are other sick leave laws Iowa employees and employers must heed. A few examples of these additional laws include:
- Pregnancy Disability
Employers with four or more employees must offer pregnancy disability leave. This type of leave can relate to childbirth, sick leave resulting from pregnancy, or time off needed for other pregnancy-related issues. Employees are entitled to up to eight weeks of leave.
- Accrued Sick Leave
Both full-time and part-time employees are entitled to sick leave accrual at the state level. Part-time employees’ sick leave will be prorated to the accrual rate for the employer’s full-time employees.
- Eligible Sick Leave Conditions
Along with caring for oneself or a family member with a serious ailment, employers must meet other sick leave conditions. For example, employees are eligible to take sick leave if an individual has a contagious disease that requires confinement.
- Employer Notice
Employees who intend to take sick leave in Iowa must notify their employers of their vacation in advance. The notification date may vary from employer to employer, but it is most often recognized as one to two weeks, if not more.
- Health Insurance Coverage
Every employee taking medical leave will continue to access their insurance policies. These health insurance plans help employees recover from medical concerns during sick leave. Employers who restrict access to insurance benefits could face considerable penalties.
- Rate of Base Pay
Private employers should consider offering their employees paid or unpaid sick leave at their discretion. Employers must outline these policies in employment contracts and make them accessible to every employee. Employees must be notified in writing if any changes are made to these policies.