What employers should know about the new Rhode Island sick leave law

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Rhode Island is set to become the 8th state in the country to mandate paid sick leave.

Rhode Island’s paid sick leave bill was passed by the state legislature on September 19, and Governor Gina Raimondo is expected to sign it into law.

The bill, “The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act,” mandates that employers with 18 or more employees in Rhode Island provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 35 hours worked. The law is expected to take effect July 1, 2018, when employees will be entitled to 3 days of paid leave per year, phasing up to 4 days in 2019 and 5 days in 2020.

Employers with less than 18 employees in Rhode Island must provide the same amounts of leave, but it may be unpaid.

Unlike other states, the Rhode Island sick leave law explicitly states that no municipality (e.g. Providence) can require an employer to provide more paid leave benefits than what is required under the new law.

Top items for employers

Here are some of the top items in the new Rhode Island sick leave law employers should be aware of:

  • Assuming the law is signed by the Governor as expected, the law will take effect July 1, 2018.
  • Employers who are already providing their employees with paid leave that meets the new standards are largely exempt from the requirements.
  • Employees begin accruing either July 1, 2018 or the date they begin employment – whichever is later. The majority of new hires begin accruing 90 days after employment (with longer periods for temporary and seasonal workers).
  • The law stipulates that accrued, unused leave carries over at year-end, but the same use requirements apply (3 days in 2018, 4 days in 2019, 5 days in 2020).

“Rhode Island is the latest state to pass mandatory paid sick leave, and at first glance the bill appears to be similar to what we’ve seen before – in Massachusetts, for example,” said Carly Fallon, HR Director at CheckWriters. 

"While it’s still early, Ocean State employers can get a jump start by reviewing their existing leave and time off policies to see how they line up with the expectations of the law, notifying management teams of the anticipated requirements, and ensuring their payroll and HR platform is capable of managing their accrual and tracking needs effectively."

In the meantime, employers should be on the lookout for additional guidance and potential posting requirements from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.

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