With enactment of the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, Rhode Island employers with 18 or more employees—except for governments—will have to comply with new paid sick and safe leave provisions starting July 1.

The provisions are designed to allow workers to take time off in order to focus on their health care or the care of their families. Covered purposes include:

  • Mental or physical illnesses, injuries or conditions
  • Diagnosis and treatment
  • Preventive care
  • Leave related to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking
  • Public health emergencies that result in closure of the employee’s workplace or their child’s school or day care
  • Exposure to a communicable disease

Final regulations issued by the Department of Labor and Training provide details on application of the new law.

Covered Employees

To determine if they need to comply with the new requirements, Rhode Island employers must count the number of employees on an annual basis to establish whether they maintained an average of 18 or more in Rhode Island during the previous payroll year’s highest two employment quarters.

An employee is considered employed in Rhode Island if their primary place of employment within the past 12 months was Rhode Island, regardless of their employer’s location.

Leave Accrual

Under the law, employees—even if they’re just part-time workers—must be allowed to accrue one hour of paid leave for every 35 hours they work. This accrual is based on hours paid, not worked, so they can earn time on a holiday or while on vacation.

The requirements will be phased in, increasing over the next three years as follows:

  • 2018: employers must provide up to 24 hours of leave
  • 2019: employers must provide up to 32 hours of leave
  • 2020: employers must provide up to 40 hours of leave

Administration

Rhode Island employers can provide a monthly lump sum of leave based on an employee’s average hours, and can front load leave at the beginning of the year to alleviate the administrative burden of tracking.

When it comes to use of the leave, the regulations include some guidelines:

  • Employers can impose a 90-day waiting period for new employees, as long as the requirement is documented in a policy.
  • When an employee’s absence is foreseeable, meaning planned at least 24 hours before it’s needed, the employee must provide notice in a reasonable timeframe. When leave is unforeseeable, the employer’s notice policies must be reasonable.
  • If an employee is out of work on sick leave for three or more consecutive days, the employer can request medical documentation.
  • Employers are not required to pay out accrued, unused sick time at separation of employment.

Compliance

Employers who violate the law’s provisions will be fined $100 for a first offense and $100 to $500 for subsequent offenses. To comply, be sure to review your current sick time or PTO policies. Those employers who already provide the minimum time required under the law are exempt from its accrual, carryover and use provisions.

If you don’t have a policy in place, it’s time to create one that complies with the law. And be sure to communicate the updates in your handbook.

For more information, contact Karyn Rhodes at 401-332-9325 or by email at krhodes@completepayrollsolutions.com.

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