Virginia sick leave laws do not bind all the employers to grant paid sick leave to employees. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does provide workers with unpaid leave and recently enacted domestic health workers legislation that applies to some employees. In general, private employers are free to create their policies on paid and unpaid sick leave.
FMLA mandates eligible employees to be of the following categories:
- Having been employed officially and legally by a company for the past 12 months
- At least 1250 hours worked during the employment period of 12 months
- The company has at least 50-worker staff within a 75-mile radius of its primary work center
Maximum leave under FMLA is 12 weeks per year, unpaid, and comes with job protection. Upon return, the employee has a right to their previous or an equivalent position.
The law also provides health care benefits during this leave period.
Virginia does not have a universal unpaid sick leave policy for private-sector employers. However, many employers have such benefits to attract the best talent.
Still, no law mandates a minimum paid or unpaid leave for workers. Although there have been attempts to legislate such laws, there was a limited success.
In 2021, though, Virginia enacted legislation to provide home health professionals with paid time off policies. In this legislation, domestic workers in healthcare have the following definition:
- A health care worker who provides personal care or respite to another individual getting consumer-directed services under state medical assistance
- Working at least 20 hours per week on average, or 90 hours per month
That said, this law doesn’t cover health care providers licensed by a health regulatory board or working with a hospital licensed by Health Department who work more than 30 hours per month on average.
Sick Leave Accrual
Sick leave, whenever stipulated by the health regulatory body or provided by the employer as a benefit, will start to accrue from the commencement of employment.
The company may offer accumulated sick leave at the beginning of the year or leave it to individual discretion. The employer is not bound by employment law to provide more than 40 hours of paid sick leave.
For every 30 hours worked, covered health workers will accrue one hour of paid sick leave, up to 40 hours per year.
There is also no provision prohibiting an employer from offering more leave to essential employees as a benefit. However, the minimum requirement is fixed.
The paid sick leave will carry over to the following year, but an employee cannot avail more than 40 hours of paid sick leave in any year.
Permitted Uses of Virginia Sick Leave Laws
Virginia paid sick leave law allows a worker leave for the following:
- Preventive medical care
- Caring for a mentally or physically ill family member
- Medical diagnosis
A family member is defined under the law as a biological, foster, adopted, or stepchild. It’s also a person for whom an employee is bound by law to provide health care, such as a spouse, parents, grandchildren, or a person related by blood to the employee.
In short, an employee can avail of paid sick leave for the following purposes:
- Mental and physical care for oneself
- Serious health condition
- Disability of self or a family member
- Essential immunization
- Therapeutic health treatment
Along with the Virginia Sick Leave Law, a covered worker is eligible for FMLA under the following circumstances:
- Birth of a newborn baby or care of a biological child at the house
- Caring as a foster parent or as a legal guardian for an adopted child
- Companion services for a family relationship suffering from severe health conditions
- Self-care; when the employee cannot perform duties due to serious illnesses
Remember, FMLA does not cover your day-to-day sicknesses such as fever or cold.
A covered worker should provide reasonable documentation to prove hospitalization or prescription that justifies the leave. In most cases, at least three days of hospitalization are necessary to qualify for FMLA leave.
Requirements and Limitations
Under Virginia sick leave laws, an individual must notify the employer before availing of the sick leave benefit. The employee is not obliged to provide an alternate for covering their shift.
Moreover, they may avail themselves of the holidays in an emergency and provide documentary proof upon return. Under the policy, the employee cannot be penalized. Furthermore, the law does not allow any employers to penalize an employee for utilizing their paid sick leave.
If a worker wants to avail of their paid sick leave for taking time off, the employer may decide based on the company’s needs. A covered employee does not have the right to take leave without notification unless there’s an emergency.
If the employer deems the leave application adversely affecting the company schedule and work, they may refuse to grant the leave at the moment.
Alternative Leave Policies and Laws
There is some federal legislation that affects the state laws under certain conditions, and they are:
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Families First Coronavirus Response Act is a federal law passed by the state legislature which provides eligible workers with paid sick leave in case of COVID-19-related illnesses.
Key features of this act that provide paid sick leave are:
- Paid sick leave at regular pay for two weeks (up to 80 hours) in case an employee is quarantined at the house or experiencing COVID-like symptoms. The employee would need to provide medical reports from a registered medical practitioner.
- A paid sick leave at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate (two weeks or 80 hours) when they have to care for a family member at the house suffering from COVID or are quarantined with no other alternative person to care for them.
- Two weeks or 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds their hourly rate if the employee has to care for their minor child who cannot attend a school or get childcare due to COVID restrictions.
- Additional paid Expanded Family and Medical Leave of 10 weeks at two-thirds of the employee’s pay in case they have to take care of a child who cannot attend a school or get child care service at the house due to COVID restrictions.
Covered employers in this act include companies with more than 500 employees. That said, the act allows businesses with fewer than 50 employees to file for exemption in case the employee’s leave interferes with their essential functions.
All eligible employees are entitled to two weeks of paid holiday, but for an extended vacation, only employees working for more than thirty working days are eligible.