This week we continue our series on Essential HR Policies with a look at time off and paid leave. As a small business or non-profit, you might be worried that giving your employees paid time off is simply too expensive. On the other hand, you fear that you won’t be able to compete for the best talent if you don’t offer the kind of time off and paid leave policies that are offered by much larger corporations. And these fears are compounded by not knowing what the law actually requires versus simply wanting to be a great place to work.
Paid Time Off
Ohio law generally does not require employers to offer paid time off (“PTO”), sick leave,* or even bereavement leave for the death of a family member. However, if you do offer any type of PTO or leave, whether paid or unpaid, then you must comply with the policies you establish or the terms of the employment contract with each employee.
In my experience working with small businesses and non-profits, I typically see policies ranging from 1 to 4 weeks of PTO depending on the employee’s length of service with the organization and whether or not the employee is considered full time. When putting together your policy, you should also consider what is common in your industry, the type of employer you desire to be, and what your budget can support. And you should address the seemingly little details. For example:
Your time off policies should also address what happens to any accrued PTO when an employee leaves the organization. The default rule is that accrued PTO must be paid out when an employee leaves. However, Ohio law permits employers to adopt a policy in which employees forfeit their accrued PTO when they separate from an employer (or even when they separate under specific circumstances, i.e. termination for cause or failing to give notice). However, a forfeiture policy must be clear and explicit, and employees must have notice of the policy. In other words, as an employer you can opt-out of the default rule, but you need a written policy that your employees have acknowledged receiving.
Like PTO and sick leave, Ohio law also does not require employers to offer time off for holidays. The law also does not require overtime pay for an employee who works on a holiday, unless the employee happens to be eligible for overtime because of the number of hours worked that week). Like PTO policies, as an employer, you simply need to comply with the terms of whatever policy you do establish. You should also be careful to avoid even the appearance of discrimination on the basis of religion. You don’t want to give some employees days off for religious observance but deny that same benefit to employees of different faiths.
Ohio law does not require employers to pay employees for time spent in jury duty or responding to a summons to serve on a jury. Similarly, you are not required to pay employees for time away from work to vote (although you cannot deduct pay from salaried employees for this reason). You cannot terminate or take any disciplinary action against employees who miss time from work because of jury duty or voting. You also cannot require employees to use their PTO or other time off to cover jury duty.
If you have questions about your time off or paid leave policies:
*However, the question of paid sick leave has been impacted by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), at least for the remainder of 2020. You might also be required to provide unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) if you have 50+ employees.