How Do Employer Paid Sick Days Work?

Some States Require Paid Sick Leave

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Paid sick days allow employees to take time off from work while they are ill without losing pay. This is a significant benefit for the employee and good news from the employer's perspective, too. It enables sick employees to stay home and not infect others in the workplace, a choice employees might not make if they were not paid.

Key Takeaways

  • Employer-paid sick days allow employees to take time off when they're sick without losing pay.
  • Some companies have a set number of paid sick days allowed per year, while others may have unlimited days.
  • You may have to accrue paid sick leave before taking it.

Are Paid Sick Days Required by Law?

Historically, sick days have been a common perk that employers voluntarily provided. There is no federal law requiring employers to offer paid sick leave, but 18 states and Washington D.C. have either state or local laws in place that require employers to provide some form of paid time off for employees who are sick. In 2006, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to mandate employers to provide paid sick days, and Connecticut became the first state to do so in 2011.

States With Laws That Require Paid Sick Days

Some states allow local municipalities to make laws around paid sick leave. The below states have either state or local laws in place. Washington, D.C. also has a district law in place.

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington state

How Are Paid Sick Days Accrued?

You may have to accrue sick days, but this is all based on your employer's policies. Some companies base the number on years of service and the level of the employee's position within the company and some allocate the same number to everybody.

For example, New Jersey requires companies to offer paid sick days at a minimum rate of accrual that's equal to 1 hour per every 30 hours worked. Employers must have rules in place that meet or exceed this law.

Some employers allow sick days to roll over from one year to the next, often capping at a certain number of days or hours, while others do not allow them to accumulate.

Paid Sick Days Tend To Be a Standard Benefit

Paid sick leave is part of the benefits package for 77% of full-time private industry workers, according to a March 2021 survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Paid sick leave is something that 93% of all professional and managerial employees in the U.S. get to enjoy.

As for full-time workers in state and local government jobs, 92% had access to employer-paid sick days. Just 59% of service industry employees had access to paid sick time, and this group of workers is the least likely to receive paid sick leave.


In most full-time positions, employees simply expect that some form of paid sick leave will be part of the benefits package. Indeed, most potential employees will not accept a position that does not provide a comprehensive benefits package.

Paid Sick Days Benefit Employers, Too

While paid sick days generally are viewed as an employee benefit, they are beneficial to employers as well. Paying an employee to stay home sick may not seem like it's good for the bottom line, but if that employee is contagious and comes into work, there is a risk that numerous employees could become sick, hurting the bottom line even more.

With paid sick leave, employees can be more comfortable with the prospect of staying home when sick, knowing they aren't losing a day's pay. Hopefully, this helps limit the number of contagious employees in the workplace, reducing the total number of workdays lost to illness.

Allocation of Paid Sick Days

Most organizations use a formula that assigns a certain number of sick day hours accrued during each pay period. Other employers make the paid sick days available at the beginning of a calendar year—although that is an option that may increase the risk for employers.


For example, if an employee uses all of their paid sick days in the first couple of months of the year, then quits, the employer has paid a year's worth of sick time to an employee who worked only a couple of months.

Some employers opt for a paid time off (PTO) policy that folds sick days, vacation days, and personal days into one bank of days that employees can use at their discretion. However, when employees have a bank of days, there is the risk that they will view all of the days as vacation time, failing to keep sick employees out of the workplace.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is paid sick leave?

Paid sick leave is when a company allows employees to take time off from work when they're sick without losing pay. Some states require paid sick leave and others do not. Employers can make their own policies for paid sick leave.

How do you use paid sick leave?

If your company offers you paid sick leave, you should be able to request the paid sick day through your boss or manager. Email or call them as soon as you know you'll need to take a paid sick day. You may need to record the paid sick day in a system of some sort, too.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. SHRM. "State by State: Paid Sick Leave."

  2. City and County of San Francisco. "San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance - Fact Sheet."

  3. State of Connecticut. "An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees."

  4. State of New Jersey. "Earned Sick Leave: What Employers Need To Know."

  5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Employee Benefits in the United States."

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