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Rhode Island Enacts Paid Sick and Safe Leave Time Law

*On September 28, 2017, Governor Raimondo signed into law a bill requiring many Rhode Island employers to soon provide paid sick and safe leave.  With its passage, Rhode Island joins the growing trend of states—including neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts—that have paid sick leave.

Governor Raimondo has publically supported paid sick and safe leave, urging the General Assembly to pass a law this year in her State of the State address.  Accordingly, it is expected that the Governor will sign the bill and Rhode Island will join the growing trend of states—including neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts—that have paid sick leave.

Hours Accrued

The bill, titled the “Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act,” applies to Rhode Island employers with 18 or more employees.  Under the bill, employees accrue a minimum of 1 hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 35 hours worked up to a maximum of:

24 hours during calendar year 2018

32 hours during calendar year 2019

40 hours after 2019

Employers desiring not to track accrual hours can use alternate schedules as follows, for employees working an average of:

37.5 to 40 hours/week, provide 8 hours/month for 5 months

30 hours/week, provide 5 hours/month for 8 months

24 hours/week, provide 4 hours/month for 10 months

20 hours/week, provide 4 hours/month for 9 months

16 hours/week, provide 3 hours/month for 10 months

10 hours/week, provide 2 hours/month for 10 months

5 hours/week, provide 1 hour/month for 10 months

Vacation Time Exception

Employers that provide 40 or more hours of PTO or vacation that may also be used as paid sick and safe leave do not need to provide additional leave, provided the employers’ leave policies make clear that additional time will not be provided.

Year to Year Carry Over

Accrued but unused time may be carried over to the following year.  However, an employer can restrict the usage of such time in accordance with the limits set forth above.  Alternatively, an employer can pay out an employee for accrued but unused time at the end of the year.

Minimum Increments

Employers can require that earned sick and safe leave time be used in a minimum of 4 hour increments, provided it is reasonable under the circumstances.

No Payment Upon Termination

There is no obligation of employers to pay out employees for accrued but unused sick and safe leave time upon termination of employment.

Waiting Period

Employers can require that newly hired employees cannot use earned sick and safe leave time during their first 90 days (however, they will still accrue during this time).  For seasonal employees, the employer can require a 150 day waiting period.  For temporary employees, the employer can require a 180 day waiting period.

Permitted Uses

Paid sick and safe leave can be used for:

  • an employee’s own or for care of a family members’ mental or physical illness, injury or health condition;
  • an employee’s own need or for care of a family members’ medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition;
  • an employee’s own need or for care of a family members’ preventive medical care;
  • closure of the employee’s place of business by a public official due to a public health emergency;
  • an employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency;
  • to care for employee’s self or family member who has been quarantined by health officials;
  • time off needed when the employee or a member of the employee’s family is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

*Article updated from it’s original publish date September 20, 2017 titled “Rhode Island General Assembly Passes Paid Sick and Safe Leave Time Bill.”

For more information on compliance with the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, please contact one of Hinckley Allen’s Labor & Employment attorneys.