You may be aware that the federal government’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires businesses with 50 or more employees (and in some states as few as 10 under state law) to provide unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. But did you know that many states also have small necessities leave (SNL) laws to allow time off for activities not covered under the FMLA?
This type of leave varies from state to state, but it includes everything from attending school conferences to caring for elderly relatives. Business owners are responsible for understanding coverage details — and for developing policies that accommodate the many different time-off situations, without impacting employment status.
For example, the Massachusetts Small Necessities Leave Act (SNLA) grants an FMLA-eligible employee a total of 24 hours of unpaid leave during any 12-month period, in addition to any leave the employee was entitled to under the FMLA, to participate in school activities directly related to the educational advancement of a son or daughter.
Several other states offer SNL for school activities, but for different allowable hours:
- Nevada – 4 hours
- North Carolina – 4 hours
- Illinois – 8 hours
- Rhode Island – 10 hours
- Louisiana – 16 hours
- Minnesota – 16 hours
- DC – 24 hours
- Vermont – 24 hours
- California – 40 hours
Big Relief for Small Necessities
SNL policies are designed to cover absences not specified by other employee time-off provisions, such as bereavement, sick leave or maternity leave.
The typical types of absences include:
- Routine health care (taking children or elderly relatives to medical or dental appointments, such as mammograms, vaccinations or blood tests, or elder-care services)
- School-related activities (attending educational programs or parent-teacher conferences at a child’s school)
- Blood, marrow or organ donations
- Family illness (caring for a sick or injured child, or a relative recovering from surgery or any other mental or medical condition that requires constant in-home care)
- Community service obligations (such as participation in a civic club, community organization or community-based educational group as a committee member, officer or volunteer (participation in political or religious activities may be excluded)
- Non-medical family responsibilities (such as caring for aging parents, helping settle parents’ estates upon death, relocating children into school or visiting family members in places that require extensive travel time)
Only ten states currently offer paid sick leave: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Provisions of SNL Coverage
SNL is generally unpaid leave, but like the FMLA, employees may use accrued paid time off to cover absences — or employers may require them to do so.
In addition, small necessity leave policies are typically subject to:
- Advance notice (up to seven days’ notice, or for emergency or unforeseeable events, “as soon as is practical”)
- Written notification (requests for leave provided in writing, sometimes using a specific form)
- Supervisor approval (the request for leave may need to be approved by an immediate supervisor). Provisions may specify that employees must give enough notice to arrange coverage in their absence.
- Accrual limits (employees may have a limited number of hours allowed a year, such as 16).
Add these provisions to your Attendance policy to ensure your employees understand which policies are covered.
It’s a good idea to tailor policies to the needs of your small business and the situations most relevant to your employees. Get more details on state-specific requirements at the NCSL website
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- Small necessities leave covers absences beyond the FMLA
- Leave varies from state to state, with different allowable hours
- Examples of coverage are: school-related activities, elder care and community service
- Your small necessities leave policies can specify the need for advance notice, written notification, supervisor approval and accrual limits