Overview: Employers must be careful in administering and managing the various forms of an employee's time off from work. Some forms of time off may be legally required of certain employers - such as Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. Other forms of time off - such as paid time off (PTO) or bereavement leave - may be voluntarily offered by the employer. Employers must always consider what types of leave they are required to offer by law and in accordance with their policies - and in what situations. Most importantly, employers must apply all policies in a consistent and uniform manner.
When an employer creates leave policies or documents relating to time off, the employer should consider which employees will be eligible for the particular leaves (e.g., part-time versus full-time), the terms of the specific leave and the process for requesting leave. Employers should consider offering some form of time off, such as paid time off, to allow their employees to get some down time, which will assist the employer in employee recruitment and retention efforts.
Whether time off is legally required or voluntarily provided, all forms of time off (or leave) should be carefully tracked and documented. Supervisors and managers should be trained on the various forms of time off so they know how to apply the policies or practices properly and know when to reach out to HR. Larger multistate employers may consider adopting uniform time off policies across all states to ease administrative burdens and to create a more unified company culture.
Trends: Paid time off is generally not required by federal law. However, some states (e.g., California, Connecticut, Oregon and Massachusetts) and several municipalities (e.g., Newark, Trenton, New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle) require paid sick leave for eligible employees. Similar legislation is spreading in other jurisdictions.
Author: Melissa S. Burdorf, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect the forthcoming Employee Sick Leave Act.
Revised policy to further clarify the manner in which an employee may use sick time.
Massachusetts employers with 50 or more employees seeking to inform employees about the availability of time off for veterans to participate in Veterans Day and Memorial Day activities and to demonstrate compliance with Massachusetts law should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
Updated to reflect the new title indicating that employers with fewer than 50 employees should use this statement, and that employers have the discretion to grant paid or unpaid leave of absence on Veterans Day, effective July 14, 2016. See Massachusetts Veterans Day Leave and Discrimination Protections.
Updated to incorporate pregnancy accommodation requirements, effective August 10, 2016.
HR guidance on administering and managing employees' time off from work.