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Sick Leave in the USA - The Patient's Condition is Improving

Sick Leave in the USA – The Patient’s Condition is Improving

Published on June 23, 2015 by Peter Punch

In California, USA, starting on 1 July 2015, all employees  will get, for the first time, a statutory minimum sick leave entitlement.

This will make California the second out of 50 States of the USA to provide this extraordinarily generous benefit.

But by long established Australian standards, the entitlement is pretty small – in effect 3 days a year with a capped maximum accumulation of 6 days.

This “breakthrough” is provided for in the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act 2014 (California).

The Act’s new entitlement is of course surrounded by conditions and exceptions (such a milestone would have to be smothered in them for employers to be able to cope) but the main elements are these:

(i) Any employee who works for an employer for 30 days or more in a year from commencement of employment will accrue 3 days of paid sick leave at the employee’s hourly wage, accruing at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked (inclusive of overtime);

(ii) Any unused days in the initial year of employment will carry over to the next year but employers may cap accrual at 48 hours, or six days of paid sick leave;

(iii) Employees may use paid sick leave after the 90th day from commencement of employment, and thereafter as accrued;

(iv) No employee may access this entitlement until at least 90 days after the Act starts on 1 July 2015;

(v) The leave can be used for personal illness, or the care or treatment of a family member’s condition, or if the employee is the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Certain categories of employees are exempted, the most important exemptions being those employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement or engaged in “in home” support services.

I imagine employers in California would need very strong medication to cope with what Australian employers have to suffer, namely (since March 2006 as a statutory standard), 10 days paid “personal leave” a year, fully cumulative and available as either sick leave or carers’ leave. That standard, which came in with the controversial and now repealed “WorkChoices” legislation enacted at the initiative of the then Howard Liberal/National Government, provided a new entitlement for all employees (whatever the rank or station). The previous common standard for award employees was five paid days in the first year then eight days thereafter, either fully cumulative or capped at sixty days.

I wonder then what California would think of such a thing as long service leave.

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