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.

In using accrued sick leave days for caregiver leave, the eligible employee’s sick leave balance may not be reduced below five days; 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.

For example, if an employee is absent from work for four days to care for an ill spouse, he or she would have a sick leave balance of eight days.  Generally, 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.