Under New York State’s sick leave law, all employees in New York are eligible to take sick leave for:
- An employee’s own mental or physical illness, diagnosis, care, treatment, injury, or preventative care for their own mental, or physical illness or injury;
- A covered family member’s or physical illness, diagnosis, care, treatment, injury, or preventative care for their own mental, or physical illness or injury;
- Absences related to an employee’s status as a victim of domestic violence, family offense, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking; or
- Absences related to a covered family member’s status as a victim of domestic violence, family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking.
Employers must allow employees to accrue at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, subject to certain caps described below. Employers may opt to frontload the maximum annual amount (as determined by company size and/or revenue) of sick leave at the beginning of the year. They may also comply with existing PTO or sick leave policies that meet the minimum requirements of the law.
Employees begin accruing sick time on their first day of work and employees must be allowed to take time as it accrues.
A company’s size and annual income inform two important components of the law: whether the employer is required to provide paid or unpaid leave, and the number of hours at which employers may cap accrual of sick leave:
Employer size/annual income
Paid or unpaid sick leave
Maximum required annual sick leave
Fewer than 5 employees / less than $1M in income
Fewer than 5 employees / more than $1M in income
100 or more employees
Limitations on Sick Leave
An employer is not required to pay out accrued, unused paid sick time when an employee separates from employment with the employer. However, if you are providing paid sick time through your general PTO policy, you may need to pay out all of an employee’s accrued, unused PTO upon separation from employment depending on the language of your policy. You can read more about vacation policy best practices here.
Local and Other Sick and Safe Leave in New York
New York City and Westchester County each have their own sick and safe leave laws. Where both state and local laws apply, you must comply with the provisions of each law that most benefit the employee. Your sick and safe leave policy and practices should be reviewed periodically by your legal counsel for the states and localities in which your employees are working to ensure compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, and to ensure that your policy and practices are appropriate to your particular situation.
The table below outlines some more notable differences between the state law in New York and local sick and safe leave laws.
|Additional notice requirements
|New York City - Sick and Safe Leave
|Westchester County - Safe Time
Employers can read a bit more about each local law below and on the linked city and/or county websites.
New York City Sick and Safe Leave
New York City’s paid sick leave law has been in effect since 2014, and was recently amended to be more consistent with the newer state law requirements. The NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Notice of Employee Rights outlines the acceptable reasons to use safe and sick leave and delineates the definition of "family member" under the City law. Employers are required to provide the Notice to all employees upon hire, or when their rights change. Justworks uploads this Notice under ‘Documents’ for all NYC employees.
NYC also requires that employers include certain balance and usage information on employee pay statements. Justworks takes care of this requirement for customers.
As a best practice, the acceptable reasons for leave should be indicated in any employee handbook and/or as part of the company's PTO policy.
Westchester County Sick and Safe Leave
Westchester County has a standalone sick leave law that predates New York State law. However, the County has indicated that the state law alone now governs employers’ paid sick leave requirements in Westchester.
Employers continue to be required to provide employees who work in Westchester County for at least 90 days with 40 hours of Safe Leave each year in addition to any sick leave granted.
The Westchester County Safe Time Leave Law Notice of Employee Rights outlines the acceptable reasons to use safe leave. Employers are required to provide the Notice to all employees working in the County upon hire.
As a best practice, the acceptable reasons for leave under each law should be indicated in any employee handbook and/or as part of the company's PTO policy.
COVID-19 Leave Requirements
COVID-19 Vaccination Leave (Temporary)
Effective March 12, 2021, all employers in New York state are required to allow employees time off in order to receive the COVID-19 vaccination -- up to four hours of paid leave per vaccine dose. These hours must be paid at the employee’s regular pay rate. The law will sunset on December 31, 2023.
Employers should consider how this new sick leave will affect their existing sick leave and PTO policies. The law outlines that vaccination leave should be in addition to existing policies and that employers cannot deduct from any existing time off benefit, including required New York Sick Leave benefits. New York employers may want to create a separate, temporary vaccination sick leave policy to track this new leave benefit, with an expiration date matching the sunset date of December 31, 2023.
New York State Dept. of Labor (DOL): Paid Leave for COVID-19 Vaccinations FAQ
New York Sick Leave for COVID-19-Impacted Employees (Temporary)
New York State implemented a law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring covered employers to provide job protection and/or employer-paid sick leave benefits to employees under a mandatory/precautionary order of quarantine/isolation by any government entity due to COVID-19. The law also expands certain definitions under the state’s existing Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Statutory Disability (DBL) insurance programs to provide employees with partial wage replacement while on unpaid, job-protected leave under the new law. The state’s Department of Labor (DOL) has also issued guidance for using PFL to care for a minor child who is under quarantine.
Setting up a PTO policy
Employers must set up a compliant policy that indicates the reasons for an employee to use sick leave under the state and local laws. Best practices are addressed in this Justworks Help Center article here.
Existing PTO policies that include sick leave should be reviewed to ensure employees are granted the required amount of time off each year and that other minimum standards are met, as required by applicable jurisdictions. Additionally, unlimited or flexible policies should take sick leave law requirements into consideration, as there may be other requirements, such as notice and tracking requirements, at play.
You can review how to build out your sick leave and other PTO policies in Justworks here.
Resources & Notes
Sick and Safe Leave
New York State Dept. of Labor: New York Paid Sick Leave
New York City Department of Consumer Affairs: Information for Employers on Paid Safe and Sick Leave
Westchester County Human Rights Commission: Safe Time Leave Law
Mineral: New York Paid Sick Leave*
Mineral: New York State Leave Laws*
*Be sure you’re logged into your Justworks account with administrative permissions to access Mineral.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.