By Jean Roque, Trupp HR.

On January 1 the new Portland Sick Leave ordinance will go into effect. Although we may be somewhat distracted or desensitized from the media noise related to the ACA and state exchange shortcomings, it is important to pay attention to this new requirement that may be a bit trickier than it appears. So, let’s clarify some of the common misconceptions.

1. Good thing we aren’t located in Portland!
Employers located outside of Portland may be breathing a misplaced sigh of relief. Well, don’t be too quick to celebrate. If your employees are physically working within Portland, they are eligible to accrue sick time for those hours that are actually worked in Portland. For example, you will need to consider if you have employees that are working from home and live in Portland, working at client sites in Portland or doing delivery routes within Portland.

2. Since we have less than 6 employees, we don’t have to worry about it.
Yes, you are correct that as an employer with 5 or less employees you are not required to provide paid time off to your employees. You are, however, still required to provide unpaid sick leave and therefore will need a process for accruing sick leave and providing eligible employees with unpaid time off for their accrued hours.

3. We have a generous PTO or Vacation/Sick Leave policy, so we are covered.
Be careful not to assume that you have covered all of your bases with your generous plan. There are some “gotchas” that can sneak up and bite you. Some common gaps include carrying over unused PTO to the next calendar year, beginning accruals on start date, or providing PTO for all employee classifications (for example, many plans do not provide time off to part-time, seasonal, temporary, or on-call employees).

4. I can use my current process for accruing PTO or sick time.
Many employers will need to update payroll systems and administration to accommodate changes to start date of accruals, accrual caps, eligibility and carryover. For employers needing to track sick time accrual differently for employee hours worked within versus outside of Portland, additional pay codes or process changes will need to be established to address differences in accrual rules.

Need help? Trupp HR can assist your organization with implementing this and other regulatory requirements and policy changes. We are able to provide guidance in areas such as reviewing current policies and procedures, updating of your Employee Handbook, training and equipping your supervisors, and providing content to communicate changes to employees.