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The New York State Sick Leave (NYSSL) law signed on April 3rd, 2020 established the right of all New Yorkers to sick leave, either paid or unpaid depending on their employer’s size and income. NYSSL went into effect alongside existing laws providing emergency paid sick leave in cases of COVID-19. As of September 30th, covered employees in New York began to accrue leave and, starting in January 2021, workers will be able to use their sick leave for a variety of covered illnesses and injuries.

So, what does this new law mean for your business and what should you be doing now to prepare? We’re breaking down the law, covered reasons for taking sick leave, how the new law interacts with existing policies, and what your business needs to know to be compliant.

Key Points of the NYSSL Law

Here’s a quick breakdown of the new law’s sick leave requirements:

  • 100+ Employees – Employers must provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year
  • 5-99 Employees – Employers must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year
  • 0-4 Employees – Employers with a net income of 1 million or less must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave. If net income is more than 1 million, employers must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave.


According to the law, accrued leave can be used for sick or safe reasons that impact the employee or a family member they care for. Sick reasons include physical or mental illness, injury, or diagnosis, care, treatment, and preventative services. Leave for safe reasons covers absences due to domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking, and human trafficking.

The NYSSL requires that leave accrue at a minimum rate of one hour per 30 hours the employee works starting September 30th. Employers can also opt to give employees the full amount of sick time at the start of the year in a lump sum. Either way, any unused sick or safe leave up to 40 hours is carried over to the following year.

The law applies to all private sector employees from full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers to both exempt and non-exempt employees. However, government employees at the federal, state, and local level are not covered by this law.

The NYSSL and Existing Leave Policies

For employers that already have sick or paid leave policies that provide the same or greater benefits than the new state law mandates, no additional sick leave or policy changes are required. The state law also does not preempt or diminish existing city or county level leave laws. This means that, depending on your location, other laws in effect may already mandate sick leave requirements that must still be met.

For example, a law in Westchester County provides workers up to 40 hours of leave per year regardless of employer size. The new NYSSL law does not diminish these county requirements and workers will continue to receive these benefits. The New York State Sick Leave law also operates independently from other State and Federal leave requirements and must be paid in addition to those entitlements.

Requirements for Employers

The NYSSL will impact employers and businesses across the state, but the consequences of the new law vary based on employer size and location. Here’s what you need to know to ensure your business is compliant with the NYSSL law in 2021.


Employers must keep records documenting the amount of sick leave provided to each employee under the law. If requested by an employee, the employer must be able to provide a summary of the amount of leave accrued and used within a calendar year. Records must be kept for a minimum of six years.


According to New York State Labor Law, failure to provide employee benefits, such as sick leave provided by law, is the same as failing to pay an employee. If you fail to provide employees with sick leave that meets the NYSSL and other legal requirements, your organization may be subject to civil and/or administrative action to address these damages.

Redress for Employers

If an employee misuses their leave benefits, takes sick leave for purposes outside of what is provided by law, or lies about leave to their employer, it is within the company’s rights to take disciplinary action. This may include termination of the employee.

Next Steps

What does this all mean for your business? Here’s a few important next steps your organization should take before to January 1st, 2021.

  • Confirm what sick leave laws beyond NYSSL, if any, apply to your business.
  • Determine if your employees will accrue sick leave or be given their total earned leave in a lump sum.
  • Set up or revise record keeping systems to track sick leave accrued and used on a year-to-year basis.
  • Update your employee handbook to ensure sick leave policies align with the latest requirements and confirm pay out policies on the subject are clear.
  • Communicate any policy changes and its effect to all employees.

Struggling to keep up with the latest laws and regulatory requirements that affect your business? Get help from the HR experts at Ethan Allen HR services!


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