Topic:
EMPLOYMENT (GENERAL); EMPLOYEE BENEFIT PLANS;
Location:
FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE; LABOR - FRINGE BENEFITS;
Scope:
Federal laws/regulations; Other States laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


May 10, 2001

 

2001-R-0439

PERMISSIBLE USES OF SICK LEAVE

 

By: Lynn Marx, Research Attorney

You asked whether any states require private employers to allow employees to use their accrued sick leave to care for an ill family member or for the birth or adoption of a child. You also asked whether federal or state government employees are allowed to use their sick leave to care for an ill family member or for the birth or adoption of a child.

SUMMARY

We found five states (Alaska, California, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin) that require private employers to let their employees use their sick leave to care for an ill family member. Two of the five states, Alaska and Wisconsin, also require private employers to allow employees to use their sick leave for adoption related purposes.

Federal government employee are allowed to use 13 sick days a year for general family care purposes and 12 weeks of sick leave a year to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Adoptive parents may use their sick leave, without limit, for adoption related purposes.

According to a report by Workplace Economics, Inc., almost all state government employees are allowed to use some of their sick leave to care for an ill family member. We conducted a survey of the New England states and found that the amount of sick leave an employee may use to care for an ill family member ranges from three days to the full amount in the employee's account. Only two New England states (Connecticut and Massachusetts) allow their employees to use accrued sick leave for adoption purposes.

PRIVATE EMPLOYEES

Washington and Minnesota require private employers to let employees use their sick leave to care for a sick child. California requires private employers to permit their employees to use their sick leave to care for an ill spouse, child, or parent. Alaska and Wisconsin require private employers to allow employees to use their sick leave for the illness of someone other than themselves or for the birth or adoption of a child if they are on state family and medical leave.

Alaska

Alaska requires employers with more than 21 employees to allow employees to use accrued sick leave when they are on state family leave (AS 23.10.500). Employees are entitled to family leave if they have been employed by the employer for at least 35 hours a week for a least six consecutive months or for at least 17.5 hours a week for 12 consecutive months and (1) have had a child, adopted a child, or had a child placed with them (other than a stepchild), (2) need to care for their child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition, or (3) have a serious health condition themselves. Employees may take family leave for 18 workweeks during any 24-month period for a serious health condition and 18 workweeks within a 12-month period for pregnancy, childbirth, or adoption.

California

In California, private employers who provide sick leave must allow employees to use their sick leave to care for an ill spouse, child, or parent (Cal Lab Code 233). The amount of sick per year for family illness is “not less than the sick leave that would be accrued during 6 months at the employee's then current rate.” The law does not require the use of sick leave for adoption purposes.

Minnesota

Minnesota requires private employers to let an employee use sick leave for absences due to an illness of or injury to the employee's child for “such reasonable periods as the employee's attendance with the child may be necessary” (Minn. Stat 181.9413). The law does not require the use of sick leave for adoption purposes.

Washington

In Washington, private employers who provide traditional types of sick leave must allow employees to use their accrued sick leave for a child under the age of 18 with a health condition that requires treatment or supervision (RCWA 49.12.270). The law does not cover leave for adoption purposes.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin requires private employers to allow employees to use accrued paid sick leave when they are using Wisconsin's family and medical leave (W.S.A. 103.10). Wisconsin's family leave law allows employees who have been employed by the same employer for more than 52 consecutive weeks and worked at least 1,000 hours to take six weeks of family leave in a 12-month period for the birth or adoption of a child and two weeks in a 12-month period to care for their child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition.

FEDERAL EMPLOYEES

Sickness

Most federal employees may use up to 13 sick days per year for general family care purposes (5 CFR 630.401(b)). Federal employees may also use up to 12 weeks of sick leave each year to care for a family member with a serious health condition (5 CFR 630.401(c)). The total amount of sick leave used for general family care purposes and to care for a family member with a serious health condition cannot exceed 12 weeks per year. In addition, in order to use more than five days of sick leave for general family care purposes or to care for a family member with a serious health condition, the employee must maintain a sick leave balance of at least 80 hours.

“Family member” includes the following relatives of the employee: (a) their spouse and parents; (b) children, including adopted children, and their spouses; (c) parents; (d) brothers and sisters and their spouses; and (e) any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.

“Serious health condition” means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves: (1) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity or any subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care or (2) continuing treatment by a health care provider that includes (but is not limited to) examinations to determine if there is a serious health condition and evaluations of such conditions if the examinations or evaluations determine that a serious health condition exists (5 CFR 630.1201).

Examples of "serious health condition" include ongoing pregnancy, miscarriages, complications or illnesses related to pregnancy (such as severe morning sickness), the need for prenatal care, childbirth, and recovery from childbirth.

A new mother is entitled to use sick leave for the period of incapacitation certified by the health care provider following the birth, which generally is about 6 weeks. Her family members are entitled to use sick leave to care for her during that entire period of incapacitation. Once the new mother's period of incapacitation ends, there is no further entitlement to use sick leave by her or family members.

Adoption

Adoptive parents may request sick leave for adoption related purposes, including but not limited to, appointments with adoption agencies, social workers and attorneys; court proceeding; required travel; and any other activities necessary to allow the adoption to proceed (5 CFR 630.401((a)(6)). There is no limitation on the amount of sick leave that may be used for these purposes.

STATE EMPLOYEES

Workplace Economics, Inc., a Washington D.C. based economics consulting firm, conducted a survey of state employee benefits in effect on January 1, 2000. According to the survey, all state employees except those in Louisiana and those in Virginia hired on or after January 1, 2000, may use some sick leave for family illnesses. We conducted a survey of the New England states to find out the amount of sick leave employees are allowed to take to care for an ill family member and whether any of the states allow employees to use sick leave for adoption related purposes. In New England, the amount of sick leave an employee may use per year to care for a sick family member ranges from three days to as much as the employee has accumulated. Connecticut and Massachusetts allow state employees to use accrued sick leave for adoption purposes.

Connecticut

Connecticut state employees may use three to five days of sick leave (varies by bargaining unit) a year for a critical illness or severe injury to a member of their immediate family or for matters in connection with the birth, adoption, or taking custody of a child.

Maine

Maine permits its employees to use all of their accrued sick leave for an illness, necessary medical or dental care, or other disability of a member of their immediate family that requires their attention or presence. Immediate family member means spouse, parents, parents of the spouse, stepparents, guardian, children, stepchildren, brothers, stepbrothers, sisters, stepsisters, wards, grandparents, grandchildren, and significant other living in the same household with the employee. Employees are not allowed to use sick leave for adoption.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts allows a state employee to use up to 60 days of sick leave per calendar year to care for a spouse, child, or parent of either the employee or his spouse, or for a person living in the employee's immediate household who is seriously ill or for the birth or adoption of a child. Employees also receive 10 days of paid family leave that may be used together or on an intermittent basis over the 12 months following the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire permits its employees to use five days of sick leave per year for sick dependents. Employees may not use sick leave for adoption.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island allows its employees to use three days of sick leave per year for an illness in the employee's immediate family. Employees are not allowed to use sick leave for adoption.

Vermont

Vermont state employees may use their sick leave for illness in their immediate family. Immediate family means parent, grandparent, spouse, child, brother, sister, parent-in-law, grandchild, foster child, and person residing with the employee, and any family member for whom an employee is primarily responsible either to arrange for health care or to provide care. The specific period of time is specified in applicable contracts.

Employees may also use sick leave for family leave purposes. An employee may use ten days of sick leave to provide or arrange for care of a member of his immediate family with a serious illness. Employees may not use sick leave for adoption.

LM:ro