Rhode Island to enact paid sick leave for employees starting in 2018

Last week, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed the Rhode Island Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act. The legislation, expected to be signed into law by Governor Gina Raimondo, is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2018. The requirements of the law are outlined below: Q: Which employers must comply with the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act?

A: All employers with employees in Rhode Island must comply with the law, and 18 employees is the key threshold for whether firms must provide paid or unpaid sick leave.

Employers with 18 or more employees in Rhode Island must provide paid sick leave to employees in Rhode Island.

Employers with 17 or fewer employees in Rhode Island must provide unpaid sick leave.

Q: Which employees will receive sick leave?

A: The law includes all employees of covered employers, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees. Independent contractors are excluded from the law. More guidance on this subject is expected from Rhode Island before the act becomes effective.

Q: When is the law set to be effective, and how much leave is required?

A: The act is slated to be effective on July 1, 2018. Employees will earn one hour of sick leave for every 35 hours worked. Here are the annual maximums for sick leave:

2018 Maximum Sick Hours Earned: 24.

2019 Maximum Sick Hours Earned: 32.

2020 Maximum Sick Hours Earned (annual limit applies beyond 2020): 40.

Employees may either accrue paid sick leave throughout the year, or employers may frontload paid sick leave at the beginning of each calendar year, according to the totals listed above.

Q: For which conditions, causes and scenarios can sick leave be used?

A: Sick leave in Rhode Island be used for the following:

-- An employee’s or a covered family member’s mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or preventive medical care.

-- Closure of the employee's place of business by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or an employee's need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.

--  Care for oneself or a covered family member when it has been determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider that the employee’s or family member’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others because of their exposure to a communicable disease, whether or not the employee or family member has actually contracted the communicable disease.

-- Time off needed when the employee or a covered family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Q: If I have employees in Rhode Island, what do I need to do?

A: If you have at least one employee in Rhode Island, you will need to provide leave, whether paid or unpaid, to your Rhode Island employee(s), and the following will be required:

-- Update leave policies and/or employee handbook. Even if you already provide paid leave (sick leave or vacation time) to employees, at or above the required hourly levels, you must update your policies to include the state-mandated reasons to use sick leave, notice, and documentation requirements, as well as anti-retaliation language.

-- Train HR staff and employees on new policies.

-- Post a notice in a conspicuous place. While this isn’t explicitly mentioned in the act, it is largely expected that Rhode Island will create a notice and require it to be posted where employees will likely see it.

More guidance on the act is expected from Rhode Island in the near future. Since there is less than one year before the sick leave requirements take effect, please stay tuned for further updates and take care to make necessary changes.

Contact us

Have questions regarding the Rhode Island Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act? Please contact a Plexus client service team representative in Deer Park, Ill. (847-307-6100), Chicago (312-606-4800), Dallas (972-770-5010), or Oklahoma City (405-840-3033). We’re here to help – and we’re happy to help.