Many employers in the United States offer sick leave -- paid time off to take care of urgent medical needs or illness. As of 2010, however, sick leave is not mandatory. Always familiarize yourself with your employer's sick leave policy when starting a new job. Some employers require doctor's notes for each sick day you take or have specific call-out procedures while others do not. Follow your employer's policy to ensure you get any sick days you are entitled to.
Family Medical Leave Act
The federal Family Medical Leave Act entitles employees to take up to 12 weeks off per 12 month period to take care of medical needs for themselves or their family members. However, FMLA does not entitle employees to receive wages during FMLA time. This differs from traditional sick leave, in which employees get paid for a certain number of days per year, even though they do not come to work because they are sick.
No Right to Sick Leave
As of December 2010, the only cities that require employers to grant sick leave to employees are San Francisco, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. In the rest of the United States, each employer has the right to decide on a sick leave policy. Some employers grant sick days to employees who have been working more than a certain period of time, while other employers do not.
Advantages of Sick Leave
When employers provide sick leave, employees are more likely to stay home when they are sick, according to Professor Jody Heymann of McGill University as quoted in the "The New York Times." Sick employees who stay home do not spread disease to their fellow employees so that illness does not interfere with the company's productivity. Employees are also more likely to want to work for a company that gives benefits such as sick leave. Opponents of sick leave laws say that making sick leave mandatory would require more paperwork and raise costs for business owners.
If You Get Sick
Whether or not your employer offers sick days, if you are sick you may want to stay home to avoid making your illness worse and to minimize the risk to other employees. Always get a doctor's note if you are sick to demonstrate to your employer that you had a legitimate reason to skip work. If you are sick for a long period of time, a doctor's note may also help qualify you for short-term disability payments.