Except for per diem healthcare workers and businesses with a collective bargaining agreement in place, employers of all sizes must start providing paid sick leave to all of their employees on Monday. A lot of confusion still surrounds the law, so in the interest of helping members understand their options, here’s part of what you have to do, as well as some things you can and cannot do under the law.

  1. Length of paid sick leave

What you have to do:

Employers are required to allow part-time and full time employees to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.

 

What you can do:

Employers can choose to simply provide all 40 hours at once at the beginning of the benefit year.

 

What you can’t do:

You cannot provide less than 40 hours of paid sick time up front. If you hire someone in the middle of the benefit year, you would have to give them all 40 hours upfront and carry over any time they don’t use, even if it’s just a few months.

Note: On Oct. 26, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development released an FAQ indicating that employers could provide less than 40 hours per week to part-time employees and mid-year hires. The employer would have to track the number of hours an employee works as if he or she were accruing time and, if their hours earn them more time than has been allotted. Go here for the FAQ. The relevant sections are on page 6.

Employers are allowed to switch between the accrual method and the lump-sum method on a year-by-year and employee-by-employee basis. So a mid-year hire could be on the accrual method the first year, and then receive their 40 hours upfront at the beginning of the next benefit year.

 

  1. Taking paid sick leave

What you have to do:

Employers have to permit employees to use their paid sick time to either care for themselves or a family member. Be aware, however, that the definitions of “care” and “family member” are very broad and can involve people who are not related to the employee and instances when no one is actually sick. (Go here for details)

What you can do:

Employers can require employees to wait up to 120 calendar days after the effective date, Oct. 29, or the date the employee begins working before they can use their paid sick time.

What you can’t do:

You cannot count an employee’s paid sick day as an absence as part of an attendance policy or reward program. The law specifically prohibits employers from taking “adverse employment action” or retaliating against employees for taking paid sick time.

  1. The benefit year

What you have to do:

Establish a benefit year that applies to all employees.

What you can do:

Employers can choose any 12-month period, whether it be the calendar year, Jan.1 through Dec. 31, or a fiscal year, such as Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

What you can’t do:

Use employees’ hiring anniversary date as the beginning of the benefit year. Hiring dates vary from employee to employee, and the law requires the employer to establish a single benefit year for all workers.

  1. Carry over

What you have to do:

Employers have to permit an employee to carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time from one year to the next.

What you can do:

Employers can offer employees the option of taking their unused sick time as a lump-sum payment. The employee can accept the offer, take half as a payment and carry-forward the rest, or reject the offer and carry over any unused sick time.

What you can’t do:

Employers can’t require an employee to take a payout for their unused sick time at the end of a benefit year.