Question: I’ve heard about this new law in Michigan that requires employers to provide paid sick leave to our staff. I’m not sure if this rule applies to me or not. At first, I thought it applied to all employers, but then I heard that got changed so now I’m thoroughly confused. Can you shed some light on this for me?
Answer: The Paid Medical Leave Act began as a ballot initiative that the Michigan legislature adopted back in September, 2018 with a future effective date of late March, 2019. At the time of adoption, the legislature signaled that it planned to amend the ballot language to make it more ‘workable’ for employers. The initial wording of this law required ALL employers to comply, however, in December of 2018 that was changed – along with several other provisions in the Act. In order to determine how best to proceed, let’s walk through this step by step.
Step One: Determine if you are a covered employer.
The revised Paid Medical Leave Act exempts employers with less than 50 employees. So, if you currently have less than 50 employees (based on straight headcount, not full-time equivalents) you can stop reading. Nothing in this new legislation will apply to you.
If you have 50 or more employees in all of your Michigan locations combined, this legislation requires you to begin providing one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked to all eligible employees beginning on March 29th of this year.
Step Two: Familiarize yourself with the basic provisions of this newly revised law.
The Paid Medical Leave Act mandates that one hour of paid sick leave be granted to employees for every 35 hours worked, but that amount is capped. Covered employers can limit the amount of paid leave earned each week to NO MORE than one hour (regardless of the number of hours worked that week) and can limit the paid leave earned and the amount eligible for employee use in a given benefit year (any consecutive 12-month period) to 40 hours. Employers can choose to track and award this time based on an accrual method – earn/use as you go – or through a frontloading system where the hours for the year are predetermined and awarded in one lump sum at the start of the benefit year. In the accrual method, employers can cap the number of unused hours that rollover to the following year at 40. Frontloaded systems don’t require the use of carryover since the bank will fully load again on day one of the next benefit year. Remember, regardless of the size of the bank, employees can’t use more than 40 hours in a given benefit year unless your time off policies are more generous and allow for it.
Step Three: If you are a covered employer, review your current leave policies to determine if any changes need to be made in order to comply with the Act.
Covered employers do not have to create new banks of leave time in order to comply with this Act. If you already offer at least 40 hours of paid time off in a given year (PTO, Vacation, Sick) that can be used for any reason, including medical, and you offer it to all employees who would be eligible to receive the time off under this new law then you are considered to be in compliance. Who’s ‘eligible’ you ask? Well, according to the revised language, all non-exempt employees who regularly work at least 25 hours/week are considered eligible. Your exempt staff, seasonal/temporary employees (who worked less than 25 weeks in the preceding calendar year) and independent contractors are not covered under this provision. Eligible employees begin accruing paid medical leave on their first day of employment or on the effective date of this law (3/29/19), whichever is most recent. Employers can require new employees to wait 90 days before they begin using any accrued medical leave time.
Step Four: Permit eligible employees to use their accrued medical leave under the written policy.
Eligible employees can use their paid medical leave time for a variety of reasons:
- The eligible employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, including the medical diagnosis, care, preventative care or treatment of same;
- The eligible employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, including the medical diagnosis, care, preventative care or treatment of same;
- If an eligible employee, or the eligible employee’s family member, is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, to:
o Obtain medical care, psychological or other counseling for physical or psychological injury or disability;
o Relocate due to domestic violence or domestic assault;
o Obtain legal services or participate in any civil or criminal proceeding related to or resulting from the domestic violence or sexual assault.
- Under specific circumstances, a public official’s closure of certain workplaces, schools, or places of child care due to health emergencies, as well as the exposure of the eligible employee or his family member to a communicable disease.
Regardless of the reason, employers can enforce their ‘usual and customary’ notification, procedural and documentation policies related to time off requests and may still discipline or discharge employees for failing to do so. There is no requirement to pay out for unused medical leave upon separation or at the end of a benefit year.
Step Five: If you are a covered employer, display the required poster and keep the required records.
As with other employment laws, employers must display a poster containing specific information about this Act in a conspicuous place accessible to eligible employees. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has made a free poster available to meet this requirement. You must retain records for at least one year documenting the hours worked and paid medical leave taken by eligible employees, and make those records available to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs upon its request.