7 Common Leave Laws You Should Know

Leave laws determine whether an employer must allow employees to take time off, either paid or unpaid (depending on the circumstances), as well as whether an employer must pay accrued leave to employees upon separation from employment.

It is important for all business owners and managers to know and fully understand all the leave laws to help keep your business compliant with equal employment opportunity laws. 

Some states have enacted state-level laws that require certain rights to be given to employees when it comes to paid family leave. To remain compliant, employers in these states must meet the requirements at both the federal and state level. 

The dance between federal and state laws can be confusing, and it is crucial that you check both when writing the leave policies for your business. I am going to discuss the 7 common leaves laws you should know to help keep you aware and complaint.  

Family Leave

Family is important, and the main reason why people work so hard. The family medical leave act (FMLA) is the most prominent of the federal laws requiring family and medical leave. However; for an employee to be eligible for FMLA, they must (1) have worked at least 12 months (which do not have to be consecutive) for the employer, and (2) have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately before the date FMLA leave begins.  

Federal law and the laws of several states require an employer to provide employees with leave due to family or medical needs. A small number of states have enacted laws requiring employers to provide parental leave, permitting employees to attend doctors’ appointments, school functions, and other needs of children. 

Holiday leave 

Holidays are a special time of year for families and long-standing traditions and are also a profitable time for businesses. The federal law requires federal government employers to allow their employees to take (paid/unpaid) time off on designated holidays, but it does not require private-sector employers to provide holiday leave to employees for any holidays. However, private-sector employers may voluntarily allow their employees to take paid or unpaid time off on designated holidays. If a private-sector employer has a policy that allows employees to take either paid or unpaid leave on holidays, then federal law may require them to follow through on what they offered the employees even though it is not the law. 

Jury Duty Leave  

Most people aren’t super psyched to find out they’ve been summoned for jury duty, but when “called,” they are legally required to appear in court. Federal law does not address an employer’s obligation to an employee regarding jury duty; however, most states have laws prohibiting employers from discharging or otherwise penalizing employees for responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury.

Sick leave

A sick employee can affect the workplace, vendors, and customers by spreading germs and causing others to be sick as well. But Federal law does not require employers to provide employees with either short-term or long-term paid sick leave; however, many states require employers to provide a certain amount of sick leave to each employee per year. Check with your state laws to find out the requirements, if any, for your business. 

Vacation leave

Employees need vacations to step away from the workplace, spend time with their families, and recharge. Federal or state laws do not require an employer to offer paid or unpaid vacation leave. If you do offer vacation time accrual, then be aware that you will need to fulfill that obligation to the employee when the time comes. 

Voting leave

Voting is a responsibility of living in the United States. Yet, the federal government does not have any laws that require an employer to allow employees to take time off to vote. Many states do not require employers to provide employees voting leave benefits, but some do require them to let employees take unpaid leave.

Bereavement leave

Bereavement leave is taken by an employee to grieve the loss of a close family member, prepare for and attend a funeral, or attend to any other immediate post-death matters. There are no federal laws that require employers to provide employees either paid or unpaid leave, and Oregon is the only state that has passed a law requiring employers to provide bereavement leave.   

In conclusion, leave laws are important because they affect your employees’ work-life balance and, ultimately, the company morale. Designing the leave policies for your business requires a lot of thought and feedback to make sure it is valid and sustainable. Reviewing policies each year, making updates, and training staff on how to handle leave requests are essential for employers to avoid potential fines and penalties.