Vermont Becomes the 5th State to Mandate Paid Sick Leave

On March 9, 2016, Vermont became the fifth state to guarantee paid sick days to employees. Commencing January 1, 2017, Vermont’s new law will require employers to provide earned sick time at the rate of at least one hour of leave for every 52 hours worked.

Unlike the mandatory sick leave laws passed in California and Massachusetts last year, Vermont’s law will roll out the number of paid hours mandated. For 2017, employers must provide employees with at least 24 hours (3 days) of earned sick time in a 12-month period. After December 31, 2018, employers will be required to give employees at least 40 hours or five days of earned sick time in a 12-month period.

One Year Waiting Period: In 2017, employers with five or more employees who work at least 30 hours per week, may institute a one-year waiting period during which all existing employees will earn sick leave, but will not be able to use accrued sick leave. These employers may also institute a one-year waiting period for new employees during which they must be able to earn but will not have access to paid time off.

Employers with fewer than five employees who each work at least 30 hours per week will be subject to this law as of January 1, 2018.  At that point, they may institute a one-year waiting period for their employees during which time their employees must be able to accrue, but not have access to paid time off.

Exemption for New Employers.  Although the new law applies to all employers, there is a new employer exemption that delays compliance until one year after the employer hires its first employee.

Employees Excluded From Coverage: The earned sick time requirements do not apply to the following groups of employees:

  • Employees under 18 years of age.
  • Employees who work fewer than 20 weeks/year
  • Employees who work fewer than 18 hours/week (average)

Sick Time Usage: Paid sick time may be used by an employee for any absence from work necessitated by any of the following:

(1) The employee’s physical or mental illness or injury.

(2) Obtaining professional diagnostic, preventive, routine, or therapeutic health care for the employee.

(3) Caring for a sick or injured parent, grandparent, spouse, child, brother, sister, parent-in-law, grandchild, foster child including helping that individual obtain diagnostic, preventive, routine, or therapeutic health treatment, or accompanying them to an appointment related to long-term care.

(4) The employee is arranging for social or legal services or obtaining medical care or counseling for the employee or their family member (as described in the above list) who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

(5) The employee needs to care for a family member (as described in the above list) because the school or business where that individual is normally located during the employee’s workday is closed for public health or safety reasons, such as a snow day or public health closure.

Tracking Leave: Employers must allow employees to accrue leave at least as rapidly as one hour of leave for every 52 hours worked.

Notice: Employees must be able to call in for their own illness or that of a child or family member. However, employers may require advance notice for scheduled absences.

Seasonal Employees: Any employee who works more than a total of 20 weeks per year is eligible to earn paid time according to this legislation, as long as they average over 18 hours per week.

Existing Policies: Existing PTO, sick leave, and vacation policies will be considered in compliance with the law provided they meet the law’s requirements.

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