NYC Employers: Updates Required to Paid Sick Leave Policy

Posted April 23, 2018 by Elliot Stephenson in Keeping Compliant
A new amendment to the New York City Earned Sick Time Act will require updates to your sick leave policy. It outlines new “safe time” uses for leave by employees, expands the definition of “family members,” and goes into effect this May.

If your business has employees in New York City, you’re likely familiar with the Earned Sick Time Act (NYC Paid Sick Leave Law), which first went into effect in April of 2014.

In case you need a refresher, any full-time, part-time, or temporary employee working for more than 80 hours per year in NYC is eligible to earn up to 40 hours of sick leave annually, which is either paid or unpaid depending on a company's size.

The new “safe time” amendment will require updates to every NYC employer’s sick leave policy by May 5, 2018, which makes this a great opportunity to double-check that you’re compliant with all aspects of the original law.

After May 5, the amended “Earned Sick Time Act” will be known as the “Earned Safe and Sick Time Act.”

Setting up a compliant sick leave policy can be daunting, but it's essential for all employers to understand how local sick leave law applies to their business.

Looking for additional guidance on creating a company leave policy? Download our simple guide to get started.

How Will the “Safe Time” Amendment Impact My Company’s Sick Leave Policy?

The amendment will require changes to two primary areas of an existing compliant sick leave policy.

1. Expansion of covered reasons for leave

The currently acceptable reasons for an employee in NYC to use sick leave for an absence from work can be found in the Notice of Employee Rights.

The first change is that employers will be required to permit an employee to use their accrued sick leave for “safe time.” These are situations when an employee or an employee’s family member is the victim of domestic violence, a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking.

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This includes absences for the following specific reasons:

  • To obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other shelter or services program
  • To participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or employee's family members from future family offense matters
  • To meet with an attorney or social worker to obtain information and advice on, or to participate in any criminal or civil proceeding related to family offense matters
  • To file a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement
  • To meet with a district attorney's office
  • To enroll children in a new school
  • To take any other actions necessary to maintain, improve, or restore the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of the employee or the employee's family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee

2. Expanded definition of “family member”

The second change is a significant expansion of how NYC law defines an employee’s family member. The amended law expands the definition of a covered family member, for both sick and “safe time,” to include:

  • Any other individual related by blood to the employee
  • Any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship

What Actions Should I Take as an Employer to Prepare?

Review and update the language of your sick leave policy by May 5, 2018. While the existing requirements for providing and using sick leave under the NYC Paid Sick Leave Law – including leave maximums, accrual rate, reasonable documentation, and privacy – remain the same, changes in the language of your policy to reference “safe/sick time” instead of just sick time throughout may be necessary.

Review your policy’s acceptable uses of leave and incorporate the specific “safe time” provisions outlined above. Also, be sure to clarify an expanded definition of “family member” as needed.

Prepare to notify your employees in writing of their right to “safe time” no later than June 4, 2018.

As with the rollout of the original law, it is expected that the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs will post a sample written notification for employer adaptation.

NYC employers are required to provide a notice to new hires on their rights to sick leave under the law. Currently, this notice must include the accrual and use of sick leave, the employer’s calendar year, the right to be free from retaliation, and the right to file a complaint. When the amended law goes into effect, the mandatory notice will also need to include information about “safe leave.”

Need to know more about employee leave? From mandated sick leave to the Family Medical Leave Act, here are six different laws companies should know.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.