Earlier this year, we published a blog entry and a client alert about the New Jersey Earned Sick and Safe Days Act. This new law, signed by Gov. Murphy on May 2, 2018, takes effect on October 29. We have begun working with a number of our clients to assist them in reviewing their paid time off (“PTO”) policies to ensure compliance with the Sick Leave Act. These reviews have revealed several common and noteworthy themes.
If an employer has existing PTO policies (i.e., vacation, sick or personal time), the employer can continue to rely on these policies as long as the policies comply with all of the other requirements of the Sick Leave Act. While most employers already provide a sufficient amount of PTO to comply with the Act (which provides for 40 hours of paid sick leave), the manner in which PTO is accrued and the ways in which unused PTO is carried over under many employer policies are not compliant with the Act.
For example, an employer’s policy that requires a new employee to be employed for 3 months before starting to accrue PTO would not be compliant, as the Act provides that employees begin to accrue sick leave immediately upon hire.
Many employer policies provide that any unused sick leave will be lost. This too would violate the Act, which not only requires carryover of unused sick leave, but provides different methods of carryover.
It is not unusual for an employer’s sick leave policy to be narrowly limited to time off for the employee, and only when the employee is sick. Under the Act, leave can be taken not only for the employee’s own illness, but for a family member’s illness and for certain legal proceedings or school meetings.
These are just a few examples of the many issues we are seeing as the effective date of the Sick Leave Act draws nearer. We recommend that all employers get ahead of this pending law and begin to review their current PTO policies.