As labor attorneys in South Carolina, we help businesses with questions about leave policies. One of the most important parts of a compensation package for employees is a company’s leave policy. Consistent and strong leave policies can boost employee morale and improve employee retention. Leave policies can include annual vacation, maternity or paternity leave, sick leave, personal days, and/or holidays. While leave is not required in the private sector, if a company chooses to offer leave to its employees, the policy must follow certain laws and be administered non-discriminatorily.

Most requirements for leave are controlled by the employers’ own leave policy or contract. While an employer is not required to have a leave policy, if it does, it must notify the employees of the policy in writing. Any changes in policies must be given to employees in writing at least 7 days before the change takes effect. The employer must also follow its own policy and not discriminate in administering the policy to employees.

Annual Leave Policies in South Carolina

An employer may permit or deny payment for accrued vacation leave when the employee separates from employment. Likewise, an employer can disqualify employees from payment of accrued leave if they fail to comply with the requirements of the policy. However, if the employer policy or contract requires an employer to pay an employee accrued leave upon separation, the employer must follow the policy without discrimination. A policy may cap how much leave an employee is eligible to accrue or be paid out.

Sick Leave Policies in South Carolina

Employers are not required to provide sick leave for employees. However, employers in South Carolina are required to comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act laws, which may require certain employers to offer unpaid leave to employees for qualifying events. Some sick leave policies may allow the employee to take sick days not just for their own personal health, but also to care for family members, like children or parents. Some sick leave policies may require review and revision for employees who require additional leave as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more information, see this article.

Parental Leave Policies in South Carolina

While paid parental leave is not required to be offered by South Carolina employers, the Family and Medical Leave Act may allow new parents to be eligible for unpaid leave to care for a new infant or adoptive baby. Employers may also be required to offer pregnant women temporary disability benefits or accommodations that other temporarily disabled employees enjoy.

Personal Days

Some leave policies may not differentiate between sick leave, annual leave or other types of leave. These policies may allow a set number of personal days for employees to take and use as they choose. Employers should tread carefully in requesting details about the purpose of the days taken under these open policies as inquiries regarding an employee’s health may open a company to claims of discrimination.

How to Write a Leave Policy

Leave policies may seem straight forward to enact, however they must comply with anti-discrimination laws, federal laws, state laws and be equally administered to all employees who qualify. Leave policies must balance the need for employees with the capacity of the employer to provide leave. Experienced labor and employment lawyers at Gignilliat, Savitz & Bettis, LLP can help your business craft a leave policy to increase employee retention and reduce potential labor liability.