While the state has not passed laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave yet, these have been granted as a key benefit for some employees. More recently, a proposed Pennsylvania Sick Leave Law would mean it won’t be optional.
As of writing, only Philadelphia City, Pittsburgh City, and Allegheny County brought it upon themselves and acted on this labor issue.
Sick Leave vs. Paid Sick Leave
Sick leave, or sick time in some counties, is a day or period taken off work due to the illness of either the employee or a family member who needs looking after.
Paid sick leave has been a big factor in productivity and helps businesses engage and retain employees. Sick leaves allow individuals to prioritize wellness, as many people cannot afford to lose even a day’s earnings to deal with health conditions.
As an employee, you might come across different health care benefits. It is good to have a guideline on what employee benefits they have to offer. After all, paid sick time is not only a humane policy but has been proven to be an effective public health measure.
As such, it’s best to always check company policies before signing your employment contract.
Meanwhile, building your sick leave policy might not be as easy as it sounds if you run a business. There are no federal requirements to provide paid sick time, and individual states and cities/counties have different regulations and ordinances.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA is the only federal law covering medical leave for employees. The labor law entitles eligible workers to take a leave from work due to medical reasons without risking unemployment. Although this helps with the recovery time, it does not guarantee that absences are paid.
Allowed Number of Sick Days
The Family and Medical Leave Act allow 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave for employees in US states as long as they are eligible.
The following are Pennsylvania employers covered by the FMLA:
- Private employers
- Public agency
- Federal government
Other employers that FMLA may cover:
- Integrated employers
- Joint employers
- Successor employers
An employee must determine their eligibility before requesting sick leave. Here are important requirements to be eligible for an FMLA sick leave:
- An employee must work for a covered employer
- An employee must have worked for a covered employer for 12 months
- An employee must accomplish at least 1,250 work hours
- An employee must have worked in a location with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
Pre-approved Reasons for Leave
A Pennsylvania employee may be granted leave under FMLA if:
- The employee or a family member is mentally or physically ill
- The employee or a family member is incapacitated and needs caring
- The employee or a family member is exposed to a contagious illness that requires an isolation period
He or she is also covered for the following reasons:
- The birth of his or her child
- Adoption of a child
A Proposed Pennsylvania Sick Leave Law
Introduced as HB2439 or House Bill No. 2439, the Healthy Employee and Healthy Workplace Act aims to help families by requiring employers to provide paid sick leave. Through this Act, employees may be able to seek medical care for their physical and mental illnesses.
The proposed bill is hoping to extend to family members as well. It also covers public health emergencies and safety, domestic violence, and sexual assault.
The Healthy Employee and Healthy Workplace Act goes beyond the federal law, FMLA, by keeping the employee’s compensation for the supposed hours on duty while attending to a medical situation.
As part of employment contracts, employees would be entitled to accrue, request, and use their paid sick leave, given that they accomplish the accrual requirements.
The bill would apply to private employers in Pennsylvania, regardless of nature and size. It could mean well for full-time, part-time, and temporary employees with limited medical care or health insurance access.
Accrual Rate and Accrual Requirements
Employees may use their paid sick leave on the 90th calendar day since the commencement of employment, accruing up to 56 hours or seven days per year. Eligible employees may not use accrued paid sick leave before completing 91 days of employment unless approved by the employer or depending on company policies.
Accrued paid sick leave will carry over the following year, but the employer may limit the total accrual to 80 hours or 10 days a year. The accrued amount may be paid at the start of the year or lent in advance at the employer’s discretion.
Like any other process of requesting leave, an employee must notify the employer in advance. If circumstances are unforeseeable, the employee must provide a written or verbal notification as soon as practicable.
During sick leave, the employer may not require the employee to search for a reliever or a replacement to cover the hours. Employees absent for three or more consecutive days must submit proper documentation from the individual providing the treatment or care.
Rate of Pay
Paid sick leave would vary in different jobs. Employers get the rate by dividing the employee’s total wages (not including payment for overtime and employee premium pay) by the total hours worked in the past 90 days.
Payment of Sick Leave
The employer must pay no later than the next regular payroll payday after the employee has used the sick leave. Employers are not obligated by law to pay for the accumulated, unused paid sick leave, regardless if the employee resigned, retired, was terminated, or for any other reason.
That is, except if the employee is rehired within a year after separation from employment. In the latter case, the accumulated and unused paid sick leave must be reinstated.
An employer may not deny an employee the right to use sick leave and threaten the employment status of the employee for the following:
- The employee was called for jury duty
- Filing a complaint or alleging violation of this Act
- Exercising the right to use accrued sick leave
- Opposing an unlawful policy that is prohibited under this Act
Although the state bill has not yet been passed, similar city ordinances for private employers have been implemented in some counties, such as Allegheny County, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
Sick Leave Ordinances in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, only the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh made ordinances close to a Pennsylvania Sick Leave Law. Joining these two cities are the county of Allegheny.
The Allegheny County Council passed the Allegheny County Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, which went into effect on December 15, 2021.
Like the proposed Pennsylvania Sick Leave Law, the county ordinance imposes obligations on employers conducting business with 26 or more employees in Allegheny County to provide paid sick leave to eligible employees.
Part-time and full-time employees are covered, while independent contractors, state and federal employees, and seasonal employees are excluded from the bill.
The City of Philadelphia has implemented sick time laws, which took effect on May 13, 2015. Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces gives certain employees paid and unpaid leave under set terms and conditions.
Almost identical to the Allegheny County Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, employers with 10 or more employees shall provide a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 work hours. Employers with nine employees or fewer are required to provide unpaid sick leave.
Employers situated and doing business in the City of Pittsburgh must pay for their employees’ sick leave per the Paid Sick Days Act, which took effect on March 15, 2020.
Like the ordinances in Allegheny County and Philadelphia, employees of companies with 15 or more employees are entitled to at least one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours of service. That said, the max paid sick time is 40 hours.
In comparison, employers with less than 15 employees must only provide at least one hour of sick leave for every 35 work hours with a 24-hour cap. Employers, however, may designate a higher amount to their employees’ health care benefits.
Employers must put up posters regarding the ordinance that employees will easily see. Employees must be aware of the law, be it physically (in offices or workplaces) or electronically through the company newsletter.