What Engineering Managers Need to Know About Mandatory Paid Sick Leave

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

On the surface, it seems like the passage of mandatory paid sick leave laws in some 25 jurisdictions might have little to no impact on engineering firms or their employees.

Paid Sick Leave Clock

But if you dive into the specific laws, you’ll find that employers, including staffing firms, need to comply with new notice and record-keeping requirements. Moreover, if they don’t already, they may have to provide paid sick time to temporary support staff, contract engineers, part-timers and interns. Plus, the policy for your own employees must be upgraded if it doesn’t meet the new minimum requirements.

Projecting absenteeism rates and maintaining productivity levels could be challenging over the next year or so as companies and staffing firms expand their leave policies and prepare to comply.

Here’s a partial list of what you need to know to assess the impact of mandatory paid sick leave.

Determine Eligibility

Engineering managers will need to work closely with their partners to figure out who is eligible for paid sick leave, and when, and how many days workers can take, as staffing firms endeavor to interpret the new laws and calibrate or forge new policies.

For instance, the disparate regulations often use geographic location of the worksite, employee status, tenure and hours worked to determine eligibility and benefits. A veteran engineering contractor may be covered by one regulation when he or she is assigned to a project in New York City, and a different law when she travels to a worksite in New Jersey. In cases where there are competing city and state laws, the broader law generally applies.

Also, some cities exempt small businesses, independent contractors and “seasonal workers,” while others let workers accumulate and roll-over unused sick time. The bottom line: It’s complicated! It may take some effort, but understanding the potential ramifications of mandatory paid time off laws on productivity and project timelines can help you plan and budget for additional contract help, and/or adjust work schedules to meet critical deadlines.

Prepare to Comply

Even if your staffing partners already offer paid sick leave to contractors, the laws may expand what the time can be used for or impose new record keeping rules and notification requirements. At the very least, staffing firms and engineering managers will need to revise current policies and enhance their communication practices to govern the reporting and approval of absences.

The Stakes Just Got Higher

If you’re competing for STEM talent, the bar has been raised…again. The new laws reflect a growing trend toward an increase in paid time off that includes family and maternity leave, and time beyond the 12 weeks of unpaid leave required each year by the Family Medical Leave Act, according to a report from the Society of Human Resource Management.

Tech firms are leading the way by expanding their paid leave policies above the minimum. 

Facebook and Google, for example, offer lengthy parental leave, and even General Electric started offering unlimited vacation time for employees who are part of its “senior professional band.” In addition, President Obama signed an executive order on Labor Day requiring federal contractors to offer paid sick days to full and part-time contractors starting in 2017.

Consider Switching to PTO

Moving from a traditional leave program that allocates time off between sick and personal time to a bank of hours or personal time off policy (PTO) could reduce unscheduled absences, give employees and employers more control over scheduling, and reduce compliance burdens – just when employers need it most. And now that the playing field has been leveled in some cities, installing a more flexible program may provide a much-needed competitive advantage to engineering firms and their staffing partners. Also consider that some sick time laws, such as California’s law, requires sick time to be accrued and reported to an employee separately from PTO.

As this report from Spring Consulting Group points out, the trend toward mandatory paid sick leave has been established. So now’s the time to look at what you need to do to comply, or be in a position to comply, with expanded time off and competitive changes – before your city jumps on the bandwagon.


Other information of potential interest

It’s Time to Re-engineer Your Relationships with Recruiters

5 Ways to Get an Engineering Contractor to Accept Your Offer

Modern Tools for Managing an Engineering Team

Staffing Firms vs. Independent Contractors: What Engineering Managers Should Know

How to Engineer a Just-in-Time Talent Pool

Engineering Solutions to Today’s Talent Shortage

What to Look for in Contractor Engineering Resumes

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