Georgia is making big changes to its labor laws, effective July 1, 2017, to allow employees to take paid time off when they need to care for family members.
If that’s news to you, you’re not alone. A recent survey by TSheets found that 79 percent of people in Georgia have no idea the change is coming.
The good news for small businesses is that the changes only apply to companies with more than 25 employees. Also exempt are employers who don’t currently provide sick leave. Speaking to WABE news in March, the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) explained why these provisions were made:
“You have to be careful, as the government, on mandates you put on small businesses. We’re also not going as far as to dictate how you run your business, so I think it’s more of a policy statement than anything … I think what we’re doing is stating the policy of the state is to welcome companies that will give flexibility to their workers.”
If your company operates in Georgia, has more than 25 employees, and already offers sick leave, it’s likely the new law — known as SB 201 or the Family Care Act — will apply to you. So what does it actually say?
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Five days of sick leave
From July 1, eligible employees must be offered at least five days of accrued paid time off each year, if they need to take time off to care for a child, spouse, grandchild, grandparent, parent, or any dependents listed on their most recent tax return.
There are some caveats. The law excludes short- and long-term disability leave, only applies to employees who have earned sick leave, and says that anyone who decides to use the new benefit must follow their company’s sick leave policy.
What to do if your business is affected
If your business is affected by Georgia’s new Family Care Act, this is a good time to review and update your sick leave policy. And if you are in any doubt about the changes or how they apply, speak to an HR or legal advisor. You may also want to consider training managers and supervisors to make them aware of the changes and ensure your business complies with them.*
46% say sick leave is important
While the changes may present a challenge to some employers, they will be welcomed by workers. In the same TSheets survey, 46 percent of people in Georgia said sick leave was an important benefit and 53 percent indicated that they have had to take time off work to care for a family member. Interestingly, the respondents said it was even more important for employers to provide paid holidays than paid sick leave.
In another TSheets survey, based on a nationwide sample of U.S. employees, TSheets found that 85 percent of workers believe employers should provide sick leave and that as many as 1 in 5 would give up a raise in order to get more paid time off. Almost two-thirds said they would turn down a job offer that didn’t include PTO.
Are new sick leave laws coming to you?
Georgia isn’t the only place you’ll find new sick leave laws taking effect in the U.S. this year. Since January 1, Vermont has required employers to provide at least three days of paid sick leave and in 2019 this will increase to five days. Meanwhile, on July 1 — the same day that Georgia’s new rule takes effect — four other areas of the U.S. will be making changes to their sick leave laws: Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; Cook County, Illinois; and Arizona.
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*As always, TSheets does not offer legal or accounting advice for your business. Check with your lawyer and accountant before making policy changes at your company.