Although many American workers receive paid leave for vacation and illness, a significant percentage of the population is not offered this employee benefit from their employers. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 73 percent of American workers receive paid vacation time and 68 percent receive paid sick leave. These percentages may increase further as a growing number of cities, counties and states adopt paid leave laws.
In the Northeast, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont all have enacted paid sick leave laws. In addition, Washington D.C. has a measure on the books, as do New York City, Philadelphia and several cities in New Jersey. Furthermore, while Maryland’s Montgomery County has a law in place, a statewide measure is still up in the air.
Because there are no federal standards regarding paid leave and city, county and state laws can vary widely, the situation poses several challenges to small companies. A small business owner may not be aware when regional paid leave laws are passed. This can especially be the case when the employer has staff working in more than one location.
Even when employers are fully aware of a new law, problems can arise. Sometimes the legislation is overly vague and open to interpretation. Below are some tips to help business owners remain compliant with new laws as they take effect.
Read the law thoroughly
As simple as it sounds, some of the most important questions can be answered by simply reading the law. Important things to look for include: When the law will take effect and which employees will be impacted. For example, some laws may only apply to full-time staff.
Take a conservative approach
Some laws can be interpreted several ways and as a result, employers might be uncertain how to respond. In these cases, a conservative approach is best. For instance, if a business owner is unsure whether or not a paid leave law applies to a specific worker, it is likely best to assume it does. Making incorrect assumptions can be costly.
Read the fine print
Because every city, county and state law is different, employers should be sure to read the fine print. For instance, some regional laws require business owners to provide each impacted employee with a defined amount of time off up front. Other laws allow employers to establish an accrual system in which employees earn the legally required time off over a period of months.
Look for special circumstances
America’s workforce has become more mobile with employees changing jobs more frequently. As a result, it is not uncommon for a worker to leave a company, only to return at a later date. In these cases, some paid leave laws require that an employee’s previously accrued time off be reinstated if he or she rejoins the company within a certain time period. This is another detail employers should be careful not to overlook.
Consider a paid time off (PTO) program
Businesses impacted by new paid leave laws may determine that it is easier to offer a PTO program that combines vacation and sick time. This can make it easier for employers to track one bank of time off for each worker instead of tracking two separate systems.
Implement software solutions
Many small companies use spreadsheets to track employee time. However, given that paid leave laws can penalize employers for failing to comply, impacted companies may opt for software solutions that allow workers to clock-in and request time-off through their computers or mobile devices. Often, these systems save time and help prevent errors.
Whether small business owners like them or loathe them, paid leave laws appear to be a growing workplace trend. Therefore, being prepared and thorough in responding in geographic regions where paid leave becomes the law of the land can save both time and money.
Amy Marcum is a senior human resource specialist for Insperity, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 31 years. The company provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer the most comprehensive suite of products and services available in the marketplace. Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce Optimization® solution. Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services. Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees. With 2016 revenues of $2.9 billion, Insperity operates in 61 offices throughout the United States. For more information, visit http://www.insperity.com.