Michael J. Hays, Partner & Civil Litigation Attorney at Tuesley Hall Konopa, LLPAre you ready for the new Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act? Did you know there was such a thing? After much political wrangling, the current version of this law is scheduled to take effect on April 1. Under it, many Michigan employers will be required to provide paid sick time for their workers. Keep reading for an overview of the new law and what it requires.

The law began with a ballot initiative. Michigan voters were posed to give themselves a generous helping of paid sick time, so the Michigan Legislature intervened and passed the law themselves, thus taking it off the ballot and allowing time to delay the effective date. This gave us the Michigan Earned Sick Time Act—which never became effective. In the final weeks of 2018, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a series of amendments, including re-naming the law the Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act. Lame duck governor Rick Snyder signed the amended version into law shortly before his Democratic successor Gretchen Whitmer came into office.

The politics of sick leave

The first thing to understand about this law is that the political battle rages.  Some activists feel the legislature “stole” their ballot initiative and watered it down. Movements are afoot to bring a new ballot initiative. There is also talk of court challenges, and with divided government in Michigan, it’s hard to predict where this issue will ultimately land. But for now, employers have to prepare themselves and be ready to honor the new requirements that come into play April 1.

Eligibility

The next thing to understand is that it currently only applies to employers with 50 or more employees. This was one of the biggest amendments in December, as the original version applied in some form to almost all employers. If you don’t employ at least 50 workers in Michigan, you are spared from this law—at least for now.

Benefits

For those employers covered by the Act, you must provide your workers with one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked, up to a maximum of one hour per week and a maximum of 40 hours per year.

The benefit does carry over from year-to-year, but you are not required to allow employees to use any more than 40 hours in a given year. The law also includes some detailed definitions surrounding what types of health issues, family health needs, and domestic violence concerns qualify for paid time off under the Act. Be on the lookout for a poster published by the State of Michigan (not yet available) that employers will be required to post.

Strategies for Compliance

The law expressly allows you to “front load” the 40-hour benefit at the beginning of a year and permits reliance on a standard paid time off policy to satisfy the requirements of the Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act, so long as the benefit and eligibility rules are at least as generous.

For many employers, it may be possible to make modest tweaks to your current policy and bring it into compliance with this new law.  For others, providing this benefit will represent a major change.  You should consult with your legal and HR advisors to determine what works for your organization. Even for Indiana employers or small businesses in Michigan that do not fall under this law, it is important to stay tuned to changes in sick leave rules so that you are offering competitive benefits for your workers.

Whether your business is domiciled in Michigan or Indiana, your employee benefits manual should be reviewed annually, and updated as needed. If you have questions about being in compliance in either state, please call Employment Law Attorney, Michael Hays at 574.232.3538.

Disclaimer: The THK Legal Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. In no case does the published material constitute an exhaustive legal study, and applicability to a particular situation depends upon an investigation of specific facts. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.