October 9, 2017

Rhode Island Joins the Paid Sick Leave Train (article)

On September 28, 2017, Governor Raimondo signed into law the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act (Chapter Numbers 347/357) requiring employers in Rhode Island to provide paid sick leave to their employees.  The paid sick leave law goes into effect July 1, 2018.  With the Governor’s signature, Rhode Island joins seven other states and the District of Columbia in requiring paid sick leave.


The law requires employers employing 18 or more employees in Rhode Island to provide paid sick leave beginning July 1, 2018.  For this purpose, an employer is defined as any individual or entity such as partnerships, corporations or associations. 


Individuals entitled to paid leave are those employed by the covered employer.  Paid leave need not be extended to certain individuals such as those under age 21, independent contractors, work study participants, apprenticeships or interns, health care facility employees working on a per diem or intermittent basis, among others.


Use of leave.  Leave can be taken for one’s own needs or to attend to the needs of a family member’s illness, injury, medical diagnosis or treatment, including preventative medical care. For this purpose, a family member includes a child, parent, spouse, parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren or, domestic partner, sibling, care recipient, or member of the employee's household.  In addition, leave may be taken to obtain services or care as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or, to care for a family member due to the closure of a school or business for public health or safety reasons.


Amount of leave, Caps, Accruals and Carryovers.  Employees are entitled to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked.  Leave is capped at 24 hours in calendar year 2018; 32 hours in calendar year 2019; and 40 hours per year thereafter, unless the employer chooses to provide a higher annual limit in both accrual and use. 


Employees begin to accrue sick leave on the later of the date of hire or July 1, 2018. A ninety-day waiting period may be imposed for newly hired employees, during which time leave can accrue but not be used.  Temporary and seasonal employees have extended wait times for using accrued leave.


Employees are permitted to carryover unused sick leave from year to year, subject to the capped limits.  In the alternative, the employer could pay the employee any unused paid sick leave at the end of a year, and then frontload the amount the individual is expected to accrue at the beginning of the next year.


Coordination with employer’s leave plan.  An employer’s paid time off policy that meets the minimum requirements of this paid sick leave law would not be obligated to provide additional leave.


Employee and Employer Notice Obligations. 

  • When the need for leave is foreseeable, the employee must request the leave by oral, written or electronic means, together with the expected duration of leave, prior to the time of taking leave.  Further, employees must make a reasonable effort to schedule the leave in a manner that would not unduly disrupt the employer’ operations.
  • For instances of unforeseeable leave, the employer’s workplace policy governs the notification procedures to be followed by the employee.  Requests for leave cannot be denied if employees are not provided with a written copy of the employer’s policy.

For absences exceeding three consecutive work days, an employer may require supporting documentation of the need for leave. 


Enforcement.  The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training is charged with enforcing the law and will be preparing various publications and tools to assist in implementing the law.  Failure to comply with the law could result in penalties ranging from $100 to $500 per violation. 

The information contained in this article is provided as general guidance and may be affected by changes in law or regulation. This article is not intended to replace or substitute for accounting or other professional advice. Please consult a CBIZ professional. This information is provided as-is with no warranties of any kind. CBIZ shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever in connection with its use and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein. 

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