Mandatory sick leave may be coming soon to a region near you. Many employers have paid time off policies that offer at least a few days of sick leave. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, covered employers are also required to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for certain medical situations. While it is not currently mandatory for private U.S. employers to offer paid sick leave to employees, this could soon change in several regions of the United States.
Where the United States Stands on Mandatory Sick Leave Benefits
Paid sick leave has historically been an issue in the American workplace, mainly because the United States lags behind other countries in offering this benefit to workers. The Center for Economic and Policy Research notes that "the United States is the only one of 22 rich countries that fails to guarantee workers some form of paid sick leave." Additionally, the report mentions that among the 22 nations, the United States is one of only three that doesn't require employers to pay workers who miss five days because they are sick with the flu. On top of that, all 22 nations (except the United States) provide paid sick leave for someone undergoing a 50-day cancer treatment.
Not surprisingly, a vast majority of employees favor mandatory paid sick leave on a universal scale. In a 2014 Public Religion Research Institute survey, 81 percent of respondents supported the idea of requiring companies to provide all full-time employees with paid sick days if they or an immediate family member gets sick.
New State Laws Provide Paid Sick Leave for Americans
Several states have instituted mandatory paid sick leave policies in advance of any national legislation. California's Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 went into effect in July 2015 and requires all employers to provide paid sick leave if their employees meet the eligibility requirements. New Massachusetts paid sick leave requirements, which also began in July, provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to employees who work for businesses with more than 11 employees. In 2012, Connecticut started to require that employers with 50 or more employees provide paid sick leave. Some cities and towns have additional laws that require paid sick leave, so be sure to research what applies in your area.
In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama acknowledged that the United States lags behind other countries when it comes to paid sick leave. Around Labor Day, the president announced in an executive order that federal contractors would soon be eligible for mandatory paid sick leave of up to seven days. This is just the latest development in the movement toward a nation that provides time and financial support to employees to help them stay healthy.
With strong support coming from the White House to give all employees access to universal mandatory sick leave benefits, more states may adopt mandatory paid sick leave policies in the coming years.
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