Under a new law effective July 1, 2021, employers of home health workers in Virginia must provide paid sick leave for workers or time off to care for their family members for the following reasons:
- Mental or physical illness, injury or health condition of an employee or family member;
- Need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition of an employee or family member; or
- Preventive medical care for an employee or family member.
The law covers home health workers who work on average at least 20 hours per week or 90 hours per month. “Home health worker” means an individual who provides personal care, respite or companion services to an individual who receives consumer-directed services under the state plan for medical assistance services.
The law does not cover workers who:
- Are licensed, registered, or certified by a health regulatory board within the Department of Health Professions;
- Are employed by a hospital licensed by the Department of Health; and
- Work, on average, no more than 30 hours per month.
Workers accrue one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, beginning at the start of employment. Carry-over and frontloading provisions apply, but accrual and use of paid sick leave may be capped at 40 hours per year.
Leave must be provided on the employee’s request; however, when the need for leave is foreseeable, the employee must try to provide advance notice and try to schedule the leave to avoid unduly disrupting the employer’s operations.
The paid sick leave law includes an anti-retaliation provision. Specifically, employers cannot discharge, discipline, threaten, discriminate against, or penalize a home health worker, or take other retaliatory action regarding a worker’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment, because this individual has: (i) requested or exercised the benefits provided for in the law or (ii) alleged a violation of the law.
The new law also makes clear that an employer cannot require, as a condition of a home health worker’s taking paid sick leave, that this individual search for or find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the worker is using paid sick leave, nor can the employer require the worker to work an alternative shift to make up for the use of paid sick leave.
Employers with leave policies that provide equivalent benefits are not required to provide additional leave under the new law.