Sick time vs PTO time
I manage a team of full-time hourly team members at work in San Francisco, CA. They are given 3 weeks of PTO (paid time-off) per year. They, however, do not get any sick time per year and are asked to use their PTO time if they are sick in order for them to get paid. Can my company do that or all they required to give my employees at least 3 days sick time per year besides the 3 weeks of PTO time they get as well? I appreciate your help!
Yours is a great question. First off, paid sick leave is required to be provided by all California employers. San Franciso’s sick leave rules are a bit stricter.
Therefore it’s best you spell that out and separate your PTO from your sick leave program. Yes, you can keep your generous plan as is (allowing users to take PTO when they’re sick). But here’s why you don’t want to do that:
Earned, unused PTO must be paid out upon termination. But the minute you allow PTO to be used as sick leave, the law in California will require you to pay the entire sick leave balance out as well. And sick leave balances must be reinstated when a worker is hired. And sick leave can be rolled over (whereas many firms don’t allow PTO/vacation to be rolled over.
So let’s say Suzie took 5 of her 15 days as PTO, and used no sick leave. Under your plan, you’d have to pay her 10 days accrued PTO when she quit.
However, if your sick leave plan offered 5 days and your PTO/vacation offered 10 days (it adds up the same for time off). When she quit, you’d only have to pay out 5 days PTO (you don’t have to pay out unused sick time.
Those dollars add up quick. In addition, you’d have to reinstate Susie’s sick leave balance if you rehired her, and you have to let her roll over unused sick leave time each year (whereas you don’t have to do that with PTO.) For example, next year she’d get to claim 20 days PTO (15 days you provide and 5 she rolled over (24-40 hours can be rolled over depending on company size.)
Most employers, therefore, find it easier to split the plans into separate buckets as they’re managed differently upon termination, rehire and year-end for rollover purposes.
If you need further consulting assistance, I recommend Bambee—for a small monthly fee they can serve as your company’s HR ‘expert’ and help you establish legally-compliant policies reducing the risk of making an expensive labor law mistake.
Best of luck to you!
Laura, Sr. HR Staff Writer, SPHR, MA
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