Act 69 2016 | VT Paid Sick Leave

Starting January 1, 2017, Vermont employers with more than five employees will be required to provide employees with paid sick leave. This new law will extend to small employers with five or less employees as of January 1, 2018. Whereas many employers are likely to come into compliance with the law by making adjustments to their current leave policies, it is important that employers ensure that their policies are in line with the law’s numerous requirements.

Step 1 – Determine if the Law Extends to You

The law’s broad provisions extend to all employers doing business in Vermont and cover all employees working an average of at least 18 hours per week. The law does not distinguish between full-time and part-time employees. There are limited exceptions, however, including but not limited to seasonal or temporary workers, sole proprietors, certain per diem employees, federal employees, and individuals under the age of 18.

Step 2 – Be Ready to Comply

  • Employers with more than five employees – as of January 1, 2017;
  • Employers with five or less employees – as of January 1, 2018; and
  • New Employers – no later than one year after hiring their first employee.

Step 3 – Know What is Required

Covered employees must earn one hour of paid sick time for every 52 hours worked. In 2017 and 2018, employees must be permitted to accrue at least three paid sick days (or 24 hours) per year. Starting in 2019, employees must be permitted to accrue at least five paid sick days (or 40 hours) per year. Employers can either allow employees to accrue time throughout the year or can provide a lump sum upfront.

Employees must be allowed to use earned sick time for any of the following reasons:

  • For the employee’s own illness or injury, or to obtain preventive medical care;
  • To care for immediate family members who are sick or injured, or to assist them with obtaining preventive medical care;
  • To care for immediate family members when the family member’s school or business is closed for public health or safety reasons (snow days, for example); or
  • To arrange for social or legal services, or to obtain medical care or counseling when the employee or an immediate family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

At the end of each 12-month period, employers will have two options for any sick time that remains unused: (1) Carry over at least as many hours as the employee is allowed to accrue (i.e., at least 24 hours in 2017 and 2018, and at least 40 hours in 2019 and thereafter); or (2) Cash the days out.

Step 4 – Adopt a Policy

Generally speaking most employers will have two options:

1. Modify an existing paid time off (“PTO”), combined time off (“CTO”), or similar leave policy by ensuring that:

  • The policy extends to all employees covered under the law;
  • Enough time is earned under the policy;
  • Time is accrued at a proper rate;
  • Time can be used for the reasons outlined under the law;
  • Time can be used in small enough increments; and
  • Employees carryover the right amount of time.

2. Create a separate policy for paid sick time that complies with the provisions outlined above.

Step 5 – Notify Employees

Employers will need to update applicable handbook provisions to reflect new leave policies. Additionally, the Vermont Department of Labor will be publishing a new mandatory poster for workplaces.

Step 6 – Maintain Compliance

The Vermont Department of Labor will be charged with enforcing the new law. If employees believe their employer is not in compliance, they may report an alleged violation to the State and employers may not retaliate against an employee for doing so.

This overview is limited to the main components of the law and is not a comprehensive list of each step necessary towards maintaining compliance. Our attorneys remain available to assist employers with full, timely compliance.