The United States does not require paid sick leave for employees of the private industry. In fact, only thirteen states and the District of Columbia require paid sick leave in the USA. The State of Montana is not one of these thirteen states and does not require private sector employers to offer employees with paid or unpaid sick leave.
However public employees in Montana are provided with paid sick leave protected under FMLA. Sick leave is dependent on the amount of service and can only be accrued after ninety continuous days of employment.
Are Montana Employers Required to Pay out Unused Sick Leave?
Upon termination of an employee, the public entity must pay out the employee 25% of the sick leave that is due. Caps or maximum accumulation amounts can be implemented and limit the maximum amount of vacation accrual until sick leave is utilized. So called "use it or lose it" policies are not permitted in Montana per the Attorney General's Opinion 56 volume 23.
Upon termination, any public employee in Montana should be paid out the remaining sick leave at ¼ the time acquired. There are however some exceptions to sick leave termination. The 2019 Montana legislature mentions that the sick leave acquires at 12 days (96 hours) per one work year. If you have questions about your paid sick leave questions, contact a Billings trial work attorney that has experience navigating these cases.
If private sector employees are offered benefits for sick leave they are not required to pay out sick leave under any state regulation. However, the employer is mandated to follow their own company's policies. If the company's handbook or other doctrine states that unpaid sick leave is to be paid out, then the employer is obligated to maintain policies consistent with their own.
What are Benefits of Paid Sick Leave
Paid sick leave has numerous benefits. Apart from the increased worker retention and lack of resources for those that are sick it also provides additional benefits. Some of the pros of paid sick leave are:
- Safer and healthier workplace that's better equipped for preventing the spread of disease
- Higher worker productivity
- Possible lower healthcare costs by preventing illnesses before they spread
- Better candidate pool
By implementing a paid sick leave policy for your company, you can help mitigate the spread of infectious diseases. When people have the opportunity to stay at home while they are sick, they are less likely to infect any of their colleagues while displaying symptoms. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it costs an employer 23 cents per hour on average for paid sick leave.
Drawbacks of Paid Sick Leave
Some of the biggest concerns in the argument against paid sick leave are that the new wages will require an increase in goods and/or services. This can increase the costs of the company resulting in lesser benefits for the employees.
Since there is no federal mandate for private sector companies, many entities are allowed to make decisions on their own. Roughly 25% of the states and districts in the country now have laws requiring paid sick leave, but that leaves about 75% of the country's states without paid sick leave.
Paid sick leave can be implemented by companies and can increase productivity and limit risk. If a pandemic were to impact a company and make several senior level or "C" level employees ill or worse, it could have dire consequences on the trajectory of the business and bottom line revenue. By implementing a sick leave policy that limits risk at a business, local, state or federal level, entities can be better equipped and limit turnover, unpaid sick leave and the spread of infectious diseases.