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New York Sick Leave Law: What Businesses Need to Know
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Benefits Administration

New York Sick Leave Law: What Businesses Need to Know

One-Minute Takeaway

  • The New York State Sick Leave (NYSSL) law was signed in May 2020
  • NYSSL requirements differ based on employer size and net income
  • Employees accrue 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked

After over a couple of years of COVID-19, we could all use the peace of mind that comes with knowing we’ll still have jobs even if we get sick.

The state of New York has taken a lead on ensuring people don’t have to choose between their health and their jobs. In May 2020, the New York State Sick Leave (NYSSL) was signed into law requiring that all employees be provided with sick leave benefits in the form of paid or unpaid time off to take care of their health or emergencies without fear they will lose their job and/or wages.

However, we live in a world where it is not an option to go to work sick due to Covid-19 with the level of risk that imposes on others, leaving many with either no sick leave or unpaid sick leave, out of work, or out of pay. 

Fortunately, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 77% of private sector workers have access to paid sick time through their employee benefits plan. 

Most employers will provide a paid sick leave policy as part of their benefits to employees, though some small employers will only be required to offer unpaid leave. All businesses must know in which category they fall.

Take note: this is separate from the New York Paid Family and Medical Leave (NYPFL) program launched in 2018.

Who Does the New York Sick Law Leave Apply to?

Requirements differ based on employer size and net income:

  • Employers with 4 or fewer employees in any calendar year and a net income of $1 million or less in the previous tax year must provide each employee with at least 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per year
  • Employers with 4 or fewer employees in any calendar year and a net income of more than $1 million in the previous tax year must provide each employee with at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per year
  • Employers with between 5 and 99 employees in any calendar year must provide each employee with at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per year
  • Employers with 100 or more employees in any calendar year must provide each employee with at least 56 hours of paid sick leave per year

How is Sick Leave Accrued?

Employees accrue sick leave at a rate of at least 1 hour for every 30 hours worked upon commencement of employment, although an employer may frontload this to the beginning of each year. All unused time must be carried over to the following year. If employers wish to implement (or continue) a more generous policy, they are free to do so—there’s no limit on how much paid or unpaid sick leave may be offered.

How Can the Sick Leave be Used?

The NYSSL legislation stipulates many possible acceptable uses for sick leave. These reasons include:

  • Mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, regardless of whether it has been diagnosed, of an employee or their family member
  • The diagnosis, care, treatment, or preventative care of the above complaints
  • Absences related to an employee or their family member being a victim of domestic violence, a family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking

In these cases, “family member” means an employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent, and children or parents of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner. “Parent” means a biological, foster, step- or adoptive parent, a legal guardian of an employee or a person who ‘stood in loco parentis’ the employee was a minor child. “Child” means a biological adopted or foster child, a legal ward, or a child of an employee ‘standing in loco parentis’.

What Else Do Businesses Need to Know?

New York employers may set a minimum increment that can be used, of no more than 4 hours. However, employers can’t require that employees disclose confidential information before accepting a leave request. An employee may request (verbally or in writing) a summary of sick leave accrued and used — businesses must provide this within 3 business days. Lastly, when employees use their accrued sick leave, they have full rights to reinstatement and against retaliation from their employer.

The full text of the law is available here.

Is There A Federal Sick Leave Law?

Federal law does not require paid sick leave, though unpaid leave for medical and family reasons is guaranteed in many situations by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Many states and cities do though mandate paid sick leave. For more information, read our guide to paid sick leave laws for each state.

How Many Sick Days Do Workers Get Per Year in NY?

Employees get 40 hours per year of sick days. While it would be easy to say that this is 5 days, employees can take this in increments. For example, someone could take 4 hours if they needed to, rather than a full day.

Employees who work for organizations with 100 or more employees in the private sector are entitled to 56 hours per year, and again this would be 7 days (at 8 hours a day), or in increments.

Does Your Employer Have to Pay You for Unused Sick Time in New York?

No, however, they can choose to do so if they want to. They may decide to do that rather than rolling it over, but it is solely up to the employer and is not required. It is not required during the separation of employment either.

Does NYS Sick Time Rollover?

Yes, and there is no cap on how much sick leave can be rolled over. Employers can also frontload all of the sick time that will be offered for the year, upfront. 

How Many Hours Can You Work in a Day Legally in NY?

There is no limit to the number of hours a worker can work in NY unless they are under the age of 18. 

Who is Exempt From NYSSL Paid Sick Leave?

Government employees who work for the Federal, State, or Local Government are not covered.

Can You Use a Sick Day For Mental Health?

Yes, absolutely. Whether you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, or any other kind of mental health condition, taking a sick day to focus on your well-being is crucial. It can be tough to admit that you’re not feeling up to par, but it’s important to listen to your body and give yourself the time and space you need to heal. You do not need to disclose your reason for taking a sick day to your employer. If you don’t feel like you have the support you need at work, taking a sick day can give you time to reach out to a mental health professional or a support group.

How is NYSSL Sick Leave Calculated?

Full and part-time employees accrue or earn a minimum of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. Every employee gets 40 hours of either paid at their regular rate, or unpaid sick leave per year.

How Paycor Helps

The good news is that tracking sick leave accruals is easy with Paycor Time & Attendance. Create an efficient and effective workforce with the help of our attendance management software. Help your organization improve your attendance management, monitor and reduce labor costs, and collect reliable timesheets for payroll. To learn more, take a guided tour.