Puerto Rico Governor Signs Law Allowing Employees to Use Accrued Paid Sick Leave to Care for Qualified Family Members

Governor Alejandro García Padilla recently signed Law No. 251 (House Bill 695), a measure that provides caregiver leave under Puerto Rico law. This law, which is effective immediately, amends the Puerto Rico Minimum Wage, Vacation, and Sick Leave Act, Act No. 180 of July 27, 1998 (hereinafter “Act 180”). Under Act 180, qualifying non-exempt employees are entitled to accrue paid sick leave of one day per month, up to 12 days per year, for each month in which they work at least 115 hours.1

Law No. 251 allows employees who work for employers covered under Act 180 to use up to five days of accrued sick leave per year to care for qualified family members who are ill.  Qualified family members are the employee’s sick children, spouse, or parents.  Sick minors, persons of advanced age (those 60 years of age or older), or individuals who are disabled who are under the employee's legal custody or guardianship also are considered qualified family members under this law. This leave, commonly referred to as caregiver’s leave, is required to be offered only by employers with 15 or more employees. Act 180, by contrast, applies to employers with any number of employees.

To be eligible to take caregiver’s leave, employees must both a) have more than five accrued paid sick days and b) be able to retain a minimum of five accrued sick days after they take the leave to care for and attend to the illness of the qualified family members.  If an employee does not have more than five accrued sick days, the employee is not eligible to take caregiver’s leave.

Importantly, employers may require employees to provide a medical certificate and to provide periodic reports about the length of the illness if the absence related to caregiver’s leave exceeds two working days. The act does not define "periodic."

Employers covered by this new law will want to review their benefits policies accordingly.  This new expansion of paid leave is in addition to, and runs concurrently with, leave taken under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.  Employers covered by the FMLA will want to ensure they also comply with its requirements.

See Footnotes

1 It is important to note that under Act 180, unused, accrued sick leave is carried forward for successive years; however, total maximum accrual is capped at fifteen (15) days.  For example, if an employee carried forward 15 days from 2015 and gets sick in May 2016, he or she can take 20 days of sick leave (provided the employee accrued one day each month of 2016 and had not taken any sick days).

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.