Q. Our policy states that sick leave is available to employees who are scheduled to work but unable to do so due to illness or injury. It’s not available to employees who are on () leaves of absence because—due to the leave—they’re not scheduled to work. In other words, we don’t allow employees on to take paid sick leave. Do we have to? —S.B., Pennsylvania
A. In a word: Yes. Under the FMLA, employees can request to use their available paid sick time in lieu of unpaid FMLA leave. By the same token, employers can require that their employees use their available paid sick leave at the same time they take FMLA leave. Many employers have adopted the latter approach as a best practice because it shortens the total period of leave that the employee can take in a 12-month period.
For example, if employees can’t use their paid sick leave while taking FMLA leave, they have a possible total time off of 12 weeks plus the period of their paid sick leave. But if employees must use their paid sick leave at the same time they take FMLA leave, then they’ll be able to take only a maximum of 12 weeks leave in that 12-month period. The difference could be substantial, depending on your sick-leave policy.