Must I give an employee Sick Leave?

Is paid Sick Time mandatory? Neither federal law nor any state law requires a private employer to provide employees with sick pay.  (There are a few local exceptions- see below)  However, you may be required to provide employees unpaid time off, depending on your company’s size and location.  Federal regulations require that employers with 50 or more employees need to grant time off per FMLA requirements. (See the link to the US Dept. of Labor website  for more details )  In addition, some states provide either state-run health insurance or workers comp- funded pregnancy disability leave.  Check with your individual state’s Department of Labor for details.

What local locations require paid Sick Leave?  The District of Columbia requires paid sick leave, which an employee accrues based on an hours-worked formula.  The accrual rate and maximum quantity differs by company size.  See the website below for further details:

In addition to DC, some individual cities require employers to provide paid sick leave.  San Francisco and Milwaukee are the best-known cities:

San Francisco:


What should I do?  One way to prevent confusion about Sick Leave is to establish a formal policy in writing as part of your Employee Handbook.  New Wind custom designs employee handbook for their clients, considering their size, industry, and location:

2 thoughts on “Must I give an employee Sick Leave?

  1. Nancy Lary

    In the District of Columbia Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008, it references the “premium pay program” in the definitions section as representing a plan offered by an employer pursuant to which an employee may elect to receive extra pay in lieu of benefits. Does this mean that an employer can offer a premium pay program as a substitution for the required sick leave accrual?

    1. Excellent question, Nancy. Unfortunately, the law is rather vague in defining “premium pay program” in Sec 2 (6), so before trying to implement any premium pay option in lieu of Sick Leave, we would recommend consulting a DC area Labor Law lawyer. Most likely, it would be simpler (and less expensive) to just implement the standard Sick Leave policy per the DC law, following the employer size formula.

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