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Human resources managers, here’s a scenario you probably know all too well. One of your employees staggers into the office, hacking and wheezing, with barely enough energy to drag themselves to their desk in the morning. They spread the flu or whatever bug has knocked them down to the rest of your staff. Suddenly, your workforce looks like the creatures from The Walking Dead and your productivity is, similarly, zombielike.

Why does this happen? It could be because your employees are all insanely dedicated to their jobs. Another possible reason: they have important projects they don’t want to fall behind on. More likely, though, they’re without the benefit of paid sick leave, they’ve mentally translated sick day into lost wages, and they’re afraid they can’t afford that hit to their paycheck.

Paid sick leave is becoming increasingly popular. It isn’t always 100% effective in encouraging stricken workers to stay home and avoid infecting the rest of the crew, but it helps. In 2011, Connecticut became the first state with a paid sick leave law on the books. Since then, nine other states and DC have joined them, cities across the country have enacted their own, and 18 more states have paid sick leave laws in the works.

What does this mean for your company? It varies, but basically, it’s this: depending on where your company operates, the decision of whether or not to offer paid sick leave might no longer be up to you—it’ll be the law of the land.

Here are some things to do, consider or keep in mind.

  • Review your current policies to ensure they’re in line with state or local requirements. Confirm that usage terms, accrual, coverage, carry-over, and any vesting rules meet minimum requirements.
  • Consider if you should combine vacation, personal, and sick leave together in one category, for the good of your company.
  • If you combine the types of leave, think about which employee groups should be impacted—for example, you may want a lump-sum policy for full-time employees and an hour-by-hour accrual system for part-timers.
  • If you’re an outfit with multiple locales, figure out if a one-size-fits-all policy or location-specific policy would be better.
  • Look over the employee notice; the law may require a poster, written policy, notice on employee paystubs of time accrued, or all of those.
  • Update your handbook and distribute it to employees.

Like so many aspects of an HR manager’s job, sorting out sick leave policy ain’t easy—especially if you’re going from no policy in place, to trying to implement it effectively and gracefully. If you need help navigating this potentially confusing territory, contact Human Elements; that’s what we’re here for.