Effective December 31, 2015, all employers in Puerto Rico with at least 16 employees must allow eligible employees to use up to 5 paid sick leave days to care for an ill spouse, parent, or child. Eligible employees are those covered by the Puerto Rico Minimum Wage, Vacation, and Sick Leave Act (i.e., nonexempt employees and outside salespersons). This new leave is also available to care for the following ill individuals who are under the caregiver’s legal custody or guardianship: minors, persons who are 60 years of age or older, and disabled individuals.
The caregiver leave is not in addition to sick leave; rather, an eligible employee may use up to five days of his or her accrued sick leave for caregiver leave as long as the employee keeps a minimum balance of five sick leave days for his or her own personal use. That is, caregiver leave may only be deducted from that portion of an employee’s accrued sick leave exceeding five days until the sick leave balance is reduced to five days.
To better illustrate how the caregiver leave is used, consider the example of an employee who, having a balance of eight sick leave days, is absent from work for four days to care for an ill spouse. As a rule, the employee may use up to five paid sick leave days to care for his or her spouse; however, in this case, the employee may only use three paid sick leave days as caregiver leave. This is because deducting any additional absences as caregiver leave would bring the employee’s sick leave balance below five days, which the new law prohibits.
Employers may request that an employee provide a medical certificate from a caregiver if his or her absence from work exceeds two business days. Employers may also request periodic reports on the status of the illness triggering the leave.
Covered employers are strongly encouraged to review their sick leave policies and practices to make sure the policies are consistent with these new caregiver leave requirements. Employers should further note that the caregiver leave is in addition to, and runs concurrently with, leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, where applicable.