How does sick leave work in the USA?

18/07/2016 | Posted by:

How does sick leave work in the USA

The rules about time off for sickness in the USA are not like those in most other countries. If you’re looking to hire a worker in the USA then it’s worth understanding the picture.

America is unusual in having very little regulation of paid or unpaid sick leave at a national level. The main Federal law regulating sick leave is a fairly specific one: the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires companies with more than 50 employees to allow them unpaid time off for medical leave or to care for a family member. Otherwise, there’s no national requirement to offer sick leave.


Focused on work

The lack of statutory sick leave reflects America’s business culture, which is highly competitive and performance-focused, with gradually declining union membership during the past 50 years. It’s an environment that generally puts employers at an advantage and is seen in other aspects of employment law such as the longer average working hours and lower holiday allowances.


The reality of sick leave in the USA

Even without national sick leave laws, 74% of full-time US workers still have arrangements to provide paid time off in the event of sickness. The pattern varies with earnings: 84% of the top quartile of wage earners in the US get paid sick leave while for the bottom quartile of earners the figure is only 30% (US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014). Many states and local municipalities have their own rules. In Massachusetts employees get one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, and in New York City employees are given 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year.


What it means for employers

Without a single set of laws the situation is complicated, with wide variations in requirements between states and localities. Sick time in the US is viewed as an accrued benefit and employees may be eligible for compensation for unused sick time when they leave a job. Some employers combine sick leave, personal time and vacation time in a common bank-style ‘paid time off’ (PTO) arrangement, which gives employees a clear picture of their available time off, and flexibility in how they use it. If you’re looking to hire workers in the USA it pays to look carefully at the options and make sure you’re clear about the legal requirements for your locality. Find out if you have to pay your employee’s healthcare here.

Along with all other employee benefits administration, Foothold American can manage sick time for your employees to make sure your company is in compliance with all federal, state, and local regulations.