In September of 2017, Rhode Island passed Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act. This Act has an effective date of July 1, 2018. Click here to review the bill text.
Employers with 18 or more employees within the state of Rhode Island must provide paid sick and safe leave to its employees. All employees are covered except, individuals not considered employees under the Rhode Island Minimum Wage Act (e.g., outside salespeople, golf caddies, certain seasonal resort employees); 2) independent contractors; subcontractors; federal work-study participants; and licensed nurses employed by a health care facility on a per diem basis.
SICK LEAVE ACCRUAL AND ENTITLEMENT
Qualifying employees begin to accrue paid sick leave on July 1, 2018, or the first day after they start employment, if hired after July 1. Employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked. Employers do have the option to frontload a lump sum of hours at the beginning of each month based upon average hours expected to work for that month or at the beginning of the calendar year.
The law permits businesses to cap the accrual of paid sick leave at 24 hours per 12-month period in 2018, 32 hours in 2019, and 40 hours in the years to follow. Employees can carry over up to 24, 32 or 40 (depending on year) to the subsequent 12-month period. If the employer chooses to frontload the hours then employers are not required to allow carry over. Employers are permitted to cap the annual use of paid leave at 24, 32, or 40 hours per employee.
The law allows employers to set a 90-day waiting period before newly hired employees can use leave. Additionally, the law allows a restriction of 150 days of employment before a seasonal worker is entitled to use paid leave and 180 days of employment for temporary employees.
Employers do not need to pay out any unused sick leave as cash upon termination. Employees must have their unused accrued hours reinstated if they are rehired within 135 days.
PAYMENT FOR LEAVE
Leave must be paid at the same hourly rate and with the same benefits – including health care benefits – an employee normally earns during hours worked, but in no case less than that the state minimum wage.
Employees can use the leave for their own health condition, physical or mental illness, or injury, preventative medical care or that of the employee’s blood-related family member. Employees may use paid sick leave to seek medical attention, seek relocation, obtain victim services, or participate in legal action related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking involving the employee or family member. Additionally, employees may use paid sick leave for the closure of the employee’s place of business, or child’s school or place of care, by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.
Employees may provide notice as soon as practicable. Businesses also may require the employee to certify that leave is for a qualifying purpose, but only if the employee requires more than three consecutive leave days. Businesses cannot require the certification to specify the nature of the medical issue necessitating the leave.
EXISTING PTO POLICIES
If an employer currently has a policy that grants employees paid time off in a manner consistent with the new requirements, it need not provide additional paid leave. It will, however, need to conform its policy to meet the requirements of this new law.
Starting on July 1, 2018, covered businesses must conspicuously post a state-created poster describing employee rights under the Act.
If an employer transfers a paid leave covered employee within Rhode Island, the employee is entitled to, and can use, all pre-transfer accrued but unused leave. When a different employer succeeds or takes the place of an existing employer, all original-employer employees that remain employed by the successor employer within Rhode Island are entitled to, and can use, all accrued original-employer leave.
For more information or questions regarding this Act, please visit http://www.dlt.ri.gov/ls/
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This information is provided as a courtesy, may change and is not intended as legal or tax guidance. Employers with questions or concerns outside the scope of a Payroll Service Provider are encouraged to seek the advice of a qualified CPA, Tax Attorney or Advisor.