Employees may now use hours gathered under New York's sick leave law

Jan 2, 2021

While many people working within New York State have had paid sick time available to them, others were not guaranteed that benefit until the New York Paid Sick Leave Law was signed into effect last year. Upon the start of the new year, workers may now begin using hours collected since the end of September.

State officials estimate 1.3 million New York State residents did not have access to paid sick leave, putting many at risk of losing a job if an extended period of time was needed to care for a loved one or recover from one's own illness.

"Even before the coronavirus pandemic, we knew that no one should have to make the unimaginable choice between keeping their job or caring for themselves or a loved one. This public health crisis has put that need in even greater relief. Now, as we continue to beat back COVID and build a stronger New York, we are expanding this fundamental right to all New Yorkers," said Governor Cuomo in a prepared statement. "New York has long championed workers' rights, and this strongest-in-the-nation paid sick leave law will help millions of our neighbors stay healthy - a boon for both businesses' bottom line and New Yorkers' well-being."

Paid sick leave allows workers to take time off for their own illness, mental or physical, or to care for a family member who is ill. It also allows time off for personal wellness situations including addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking.

Since the end of September, employers have been required to let employees save one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. As of January 1, workers may now begin using that time as needed.

Businesses with at least 100 employees must provide up to 56 hours of sick leave per year. Businesses with anywhere from five to 99 employees must provide 40 hours. Also required to provide 40 hours per year are businesses with five or fewer employees but a net income exceeding one million dollars. Small businesses – five employees or less – with net income below one million dollars must allow up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave, but if they’ve provided paid sick leave, they may continue to do so.

Employers who have already provided for at least the same amount of sick leave and who meet all other requirements of the state’s new law are not obligated to provide additional leave.

The state's paid sick leave law is separate from COVID-19-related paid sick leave benefits that took effect last March.

"No one should have to choose between going to work sick or caring for a sick loved one and not getting a paycheck, especially as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemi  c," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul in a prepared statement. "That is why in New   York, we have the most comprehensive paid family leave and paid sick leave programs in the nation that serve as a model for other states to follow. This is part of our ongoing efforts to help ensure equal access, opportunity and success for all hard-working men and women in New York State."