In Absence Management, Infographic, Whitepapers

Leave of Absence Laws:
Unpaid Job Protection, Paid Sick Time, and Paid Family and Medical Leave

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted cities, states, and the federal government to propose, debate, and, in some cases, enact emergency legislation, to support affected employers and employees during this time. While some may remain in place beyond this pandemic, a number of them will sunset before the end of this year. 

Outside of these new emergency leaves, the leave landscape is incredibly complex and ever-changing, with paid leaves, unpaid leaves, and laws at the federal, state, and municipal level. With all of the uncertainty this presents, our team of absence experts have created a Leave of Absence Explainer guide that breaks down the differences between each leave type for you.

Download our comprehensive guide, which dives deeper into the key features of each leave type, as well as some considerations for employees, so you and your team can better navigate the absence compliance landscape.

Leave of Absence Laws:
Unpaid Job Protection,
Paid Sick Time, and
Paid Family and Medical Leave

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted cities, states, and the federal government to propose, debate, and, in some cases, enact emergency legislation, to support affected employers and employees during this time. While some may remain in place beyond this pandemic, a number of them will sunset before the end of this year.

Outside of these new emergency leaves, the leave landscape is incredibly complex and ever-changing, with paid leaves, unpaid leaves, and laws at the federal, state, and municipal level. With all of the uncertainty this presents, our team of absence experts have created a back-to-basics guide of the underlying leave of absence landscape, breaking down the differences between each leave type for you.

Download our comprehensive guide , which dives deeper into the key features of each leave type, as well as some considerations for employees, so you and your team can better navigate the absence compliance landscape.

Unpaid Job Protection

Employers have to hold an employee’s job while they’re on leave

Also known as: Family and Medical Leave (FML) FMLA, Various state leaves

Employers have to hold an employee’s job while they’re on leave

Also known as:
Family and Medical Leave (FML)
FMLA
Various state leaves

Unpaid Job Protection offers eligible employees access to job-protected leave from work for a wide range of reasons. The most common reasons include an employees’ own illness, caring for a family member, or bonding with a newborn child. This leave allows the employee to take unpaid time away from work to handle personal issues while ensuring they have a job to return to once the issue is resolved or they’ve exhausted their entitlement.

Given this leave is unpaid, some eligible employees may not be able to afford to take unpaid leave from work. In fact, 1 in 4 women go back to work within two weeks of giving birth. Note that some of the covered reasons for unpaid job protection are also included in the paid leave types described later in this guide.

Jurisdictions*

  • Federally-mandated.
  • The majority of states have at least one leave law, in addition to federal laws.
  • State leave laws address gaps in Federal FMLA, such as:
    • Absence reasons not covered
    • More generous time away
    • More generous eligibility criteria

Paid Family Leave (PFL) offers eligible employees access to paid time off work for specific reasons. Some common reasons include becoming a parent or taking care of a family member while they are ill. However, covered reasons do vary by jurisdiction, so it’s best to check applicable laws.

PFL allows employees to take time off for certain family reasons without a total loss of earnings.

  • There are 5 states with Paid Family Leave (PFL) — California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington — paying benefits as of January 2020.
  • Other states, such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon, have passed new Paid Family Leave legislation but aren’t yet paying benefits. They are rolling out a combined Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) leave law. More details on effective dates are provided in the Paid Medical Leave section below.
  • The District of Columbia passed a PFL program in February 2017, which will take effect on July 1, 2020. There is no opt-out provision in this program, so all claims must go through the District of Columbia.

Paid Medical Leave offers eligible employees access to paid time off work for medical reasons without a total loss of earnings. While temporary disability insurance doesn’t offer job protection, FMLA may apply and run concurrently to offer job protection.

  • There are 5 states with Paid Medical Leave laws — California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington — paying benefits as of 2020.
  • Other states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon have passed legislation for combined Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) programs, but are not yet paying benefits.
    • Massachusetts will begin paying PFML benefits in January 2021
    • Connecticut will begin paying benefits in January 2022
    • Oregon will begin paying benefits in January 2023

Paid sick time, which accrues based on the hours worked by an employee, provides the employee with the ability to take paid leave for the employees’ own illness or injury or that of a family member.

Some states and municipalities require a certain amount of accrued paid time for when an employee is sick, has a medical appointment, or is dealing with a critical safety issue. Some states and municipalities have similar laws that also apply when it’s the employee’s family member that’s dealing with such an issue. More recently, in some jurisdictions, there’s no requirement that mandated accrued paid time be used for any specific reason.

Jurisdictions*

  • Popular with cities and counties because it’s a mandate for employers, and not a government-funded program.
  • The District of Columbia and 11 states — Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — have state-mandated Paid Sick Time leave laws in place
  • Other states, such as Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Texas, don’t have a state-mandated law applicable to all employers, but local cities and counties have local paid sick time leave laws.
  • There is a potential conflict between state and local provisions, so some states limit municipal action.
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