Congress will soon consider making paid sick leave a new mandatory workplace benefit. A plan introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) would require organizations with 15 or more full-time employees to provide at least seven days of paid sick leave every year.
As currently drafted, the legislation (known as the "Healthy Families Act") also would lock-in existing leave benefits, such as “paid time off” (PTO) programs, thereby limiting or eliminating an employer’s flexibility in making even minor adjustments in leave provisions. This is significant because many employers tailor leave policies to meet their employees' needs.
For example, PTO programs that combine sick leave and paid vacation time into one plan have become popular because they provide employees with greater flexibility. Any federal mandate that restricts an employer’s ability to offer such voluntary leave policies could work against employees.
This legislative push to mandate paid leave comes at a time when many HR professionals are calling for improvements to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations. As the leader of the National Coalition to Protect Family Leave
, SHRM is seeking greater clarity and fairness in the FMLA’s implementing rules. During SHRM’s recent Employment Law & Legislative Conference
, nearly 200 SHRM members shared their concerns on this issue with Senate and House lawmakers.
At the moment, it’s too early to know when the Kennedy - DeLauro "Healthy Families Act" will be considered by Congress. On a separate but related front, the U.S. Department of Labor is in the process of considering possible changes to existing FMLA rules. For more information about these and other public policy issues, please visit www.shrm.org
©2007 Society for Human Resource Management