North Carolina Sick Leave Law

Eligible Employees

Federal government or private employers are not required by North Carolina laws to offer their staff paid or unpaid sick days. Employees must follow their employer’s established discretionary policies and employment practices if the employer decides to offer sick leave benefits.

Some employers with workers provide company policies that include paid sick leave as an incentive for employees. Paid sick leave is a short-term salary continuation program for employees absent from a non-work-related illness or accident. While it is not required by federal law, most firms offer it as a valuable employee benefit. 

However, companies with at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks must comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act. Private sector workers or even public sector workers would be qualified for FMLA leave based on the following conditions:

  • They have been employed with the business for at least a year.
  • They put in at least 1,250 hours of employment the year before.
  • They are employed within a 75-mile radius with at least 50 workers from the same company.

Family and Medical Leave Act provides leave privileges for employees who need time off for the following reasons:

  • Recovery from a severe medical condition
  • Taking care of a family member with a critical illness
  • Getting to know a new child after adoption
  • Managing requisite needs resulting from a family member’s military service
  • Looking after a family member who was seriously hurt while serving in the military

Employees in North Carolina are permitted to take up to 12 weeks of leave yearly for qualifying necessities. As long as the employee continues to satisfy the qualifying standards, this leave is accessible every 12 months.

Workers can take up to 26 weeks off for military caregiver leave in a single 12-month period. This emergency military benefit, however, is a per-injury, per-member entitlement. An employee may not request additional absence unless a family member sustains an injury.

Covered Employers

Federal government laws do not require companies in North Carolina to offer paid sick leave. However, many firms provide it as a perk to attract new hires. 

When the current policies are in place, the employer must abide by them or risk violating contracts. In such cases, North Carolina law will safeguard employees and compel employers to adhere to their policies.

Many other states, including North Carolina, are considering legislation that, if approved, would grant salaried employees the right to use paid sick time. One of the proposals is House Bill 46 of North Carolina, also known as the “Economic Security Act of 2019”. If House Bill 46 is approved, firms with 15 or more employees will have to offer paid sick leave to their workers.

However, the FMLA covers private employers with 50 or more employees. On the other hand, government employees, including local, state, and federal governments, are eligible regardless of the number of employees.

Parental Leave

The Paid Parental Leave benefit is for qualified employees becoming a parent by childbirth, child adoption, foster care, or any legal placement of a child. When a qualified state employee gives birth, they are entitled to eight weeks of paid leave to recover and spend time with their infant.

Government employees who qualify will be granted four weeks of paid leave to spend time with and care for the newborn. The employers will pay the qualifying full-time employee’s regular rate full during paid parental leave.

The General Assembly supports that parent involvement is crucial to academic performance and good student outcomes. Employers must give employees who are parents, guardians, or acting in place of a parent four hours of leave each year. These benefits are so they can visit or engage in other activities at the child’s school and minimize child care challenges.

Any leave granted under this clause is, however, subject to the following restrictions:

  • The employee and employer must agree on a time for the leave in advance.
  • The employer may request an employee to submit a written request for leave at least 48 hours before the time the absence is wanted.
  • The employer may ask the employee to provide written confirmation from the child’s school attesting to their attendance or other involvement throughout the vacation period.

Employee Protections for Sick Leave

Employees who request sick or parental leave may not be fired, demoted, or subjected to any other adverse employment action by their employer. Employers with workers are not mandated to compensate an employee for time off requested.

An employee subjected to a demotion, discharge, or other adverse employment action violating this provision may file a civil lawsuit. This lawsuit could be against the employer who did so within a year of the alleged violation and seeks one of the following remedies:

  • Any income, bonus policy, or perks forfeited due to the infraction; or
  • An order of reinstatement without job loss, seniority, pay, or benefits in which the burden of proof lies with the employee.

Other North Carolina Sick Leave Laws

Additional pertinent data regarding the sick leave rules for North Carolina government employees include the following:

Sick Leave Credits

An employee in pay status for one-half of the regularly scheduled workdays and holidays in a pay period will receive full-time sick leave benefits. Some employees may also receive prorated benefits if they work part-time. 

State governments, municipal governments, nonprofit organizations, and private enterprises have competing allowances for such benefits. Employers with workers may change the rate to preserve competitiveness. 

They must consider the complete compensation package offered by the State and the average hourly rate of the State’s top rivals. However, it cannot be less than eight hours per month for a full-time employee.


Government employees can accumulate sick leave indefinitely.


The appointing authority may advance any unused sick leave that an employee can accrue during the current calendar year.


The hiring authority may demand the following to prevent the abuse of sick leave privileges and employee absenteeism:

  • A doctor’s letter or other documentation proving that the employee was unable to work due to a personal or family illness;
  • In case of employee bereavement, proof of death of a family member; or,
  • Documentation supporting an employee’s request for sick leave for adoption-related reasons acceptable to the agency.

Leave Charges

Sick leave must be paid in units of time that are adequate for managing absences and consistent with business requirements. The amount of leave taken may only be calculated using scheduled work time.

Sick Leave Transferrable

When employees transition between state agencies, unused sick time must go with them. 

Suppose the head of the employing agency is prepared to accept it. Sick leave may also be transferred to or from state offices of preventative care. This care includes mental wellbeing, public health, social care, emergency management, school, community college, or technical institute.

Reinstatement of Sick Leave

When an employee returns after an authorized leave of absence without pay or is reinstated within five years of separation, sick leave accumulation resumes.

Leave Records

Every agency must keep annual records for each employee’s sick leave and balance them at least yearly. Agencies must keep all separated employees’ sick leave records for at least five years after the date of separation.

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