Do employers have to pay sick pay

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Will your employer pay you if you're sick? It depends...
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Employers have to pay sick pay because sometimes illness time off is your right

When it comes to an employee's right to sick leave pay, the answer is a great big maybe, Depending on the state (or city), the occupation and even the number of hours an employee works, the answer to the question do employers have to pay sick pay can be a yes or a no.

But there are some guidelines that can help you figure out if your employers owes you money for those days you were down with the flu -- or if you're the employer, whether or not you need to add some cash to that next employee paycheck.

Paid sick leave is not a right - usually

Like paid vacation time and lunch hours, in most cases employers can decided whether they want to offer paid sick leave as a benefit to their full time employees.

Many employers make the decision to allow full time employees to take time off when they're sick or want to go on vacation or whatever, but chose not to offer pay for that time. This kind of policy is typical in service industries such as restaurant staff, child care and medical professions.

A few locations in the U.S. have sought to address this issue by mandating paid sick leave for most full time employees, regardless of industry. But unless you live in Washing D.C., San Francisco or a few other locations, you may not be entitled to paid leave even if you work full time.

Paid sick time depends on hours and employee status

Even in areas where paid sick leave is mandated, or in companies where it's available, not all employees will qualify.

Employers are within their rights to limit paid sick leave time to full time workers (typically those who work 30 hours a week or more, although some jobs define full time differently.) Salaried employees are generally included in a paid sick leave program if the company offers one, as their compensation is based on the job itself instead of hours worked.

Part time, temporary and contract workers usually do not qualify for paid leave of any kind, including vacation and sick leave.

Probationary employees may not get paid sick leave

Many companies have a probationary period before new employees qualify for benefits such as paid leave or health insurance. These trial periods, typically from 30 to 90 days, usually don't include pay for days missed, although a few employers may allow new employees to accrue negative balances on sick leave and then deduct them once the probation is over.

Company policy might define sick leave

A company can have a policy that defines when and how sick leave will be allowed and paid. For instance, they might require that any absence over a certain number of days needs a note from a medical practitioner. They can have policies about calling in sick, or finding a replacement worker, too. And companies can definitely set a limit on paid sick days per employee per year.

Employees who don't follow the policies might not be paid for time they were out, even if they have a balance in their sick leave account.

Industry or union policy might determine sick leave

If your industry or union provides certain benefits, you might be entitled to paid time off when you're ill even if your employer doesn't usually provide that benefit. Talk to your union or industry rep to find out what's required, and any steps you need to take.

What a company cannot do when it comes to sick pay

It's illegal for a company to offer some employees paid sick leave and not others if the difference is based on age, job level, ethnicity, religion, language or gender.

It's also illegal for an employer to single out employees who would otherwise qualify for paid sick leave, and refuse to pay them for legitimate sick time.

Know your company's policy

If you're an employee and you have questions about your company's sick leave policy, talk to your manager or the Human Resources manager. If you feel that your company is doing something illegal when it comes to paying for sick days, contact your state's labor relations board. They can help you understand the rules as they apply to your case.

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