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.