Using NYC sick leave when your work is short projects?
May 14, 2015 7:00 AM   Subscribe

I work project based/time sheets for a big company in NYC and I'm getting sick leave built up. But how do I use it if the chances of becoming sick on a short term project are very very small?

So I live in NYC and work part time freelance (project based) for this major company. They email me with a potential project and rate and I (usually) accept, do the work from home (under a week or so), submit a time sheet and don't hear from them until next time.

On my checks it tells me I am accumulating sick leave. This is great, but what do I do with it? The only time it would seem reasonable to use it would be if I accepted a project and then got sick and had to hand it off to someone else—the projects are usually so short term that that won't really ever happen.

I've scoured the sick leave site which is quite good for government and saw nothing describing this situation.
posted by Brainy to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Are you asking how to use sick time when you're not sick? If so, the answer is, "You don't."
posted by amro at 7:04 AM on May 14, 2015

Response by poster: Nope, I don't want to fake sick or anything. I just can't ever see a situation in which being sick and my short stints of employment would coincide — if I'm sick I won't be taking the job. Would I use it then even though I technically wouldn't be working for them at that point? If I got sick mid-job I'd probably stumble through finishing it and get paid the full rate.

Does my job exist in a gap?
posted by Brainy at 7:16 AM on May 14, 2015

How long are these projects? Hours? Days?
posted by mskyle at 7:18 AM on May 14, 2015

Lots of people with full time jobs never (or very very rarely) use sick leave. It's there when you need it regardless of what your job hours look like.
posted by something something at 7:23 AM on May 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

It is very possible you will be unlikely to use the sick leave that NYC companies are required to provide for employees. I hoped design the policy for a company that uses employees in a similar situation to you; typically, if they were sick, we would simply not schedule them. But one stipulation of the local law mandating the policy is that the company needs to have a written policy regarding sick leave that's shared with employees, including part-timers. They also need to be able to articulate how the fix the rate they pay for sick leave to employees who aren't compensated under a simple $/hour scheme.

The fact that you submit a time sheet suggests that you are compensated based on how much time you spent on project. Imagine you accepted a project that you expected would be done in 3 8-hour days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday). If you got sick, instead of just "stumble through finishing it," you might work Monday and Tuesday, spend Wednesday in bed or at the doctor's office, and finish on Thursday. In such a case, you might be entitled to submit a time sheet for 32 hours instead of 24, which 8 of them as sick leave (if you've accumulated that much).

Start with asking for a written explanation of the sick leave policy for the company and see what scenarios might yield pay for days you are actually sick (or tending to a sick family member, which is also required to be compensated under the NYC law).
posted by layceepee at 7:58 AM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Having it sitting there accumulating is actually the point: if, heaven forbid, you were to break both legs/be in an accident/need surgery/etc., it's there to cover your continued income throughout such a catastrophe. Using it for the occasional flu or whatever is nice, of course, but save that backlog of sick leave in case it's really needed.

Extreme example: my own mother. Worked for a company for 24 years, and had something like 15 months of sick leave piled up; I doubt she'd ever used more than a handful of sick days in all that time. But then came the crunch: she turned 60, and it was like every organ in her body decided to revolt, in a rather extensive array of problems. The good news is that for over a year and a half while she was hospitalized she continued on full pay and benefits, simply because of all her stored sick (and vacation) leave time. By the time she retired, it was with a pension based on almost 26 years' service, rather than 24 years, which meant that not only did all that stockpile of leave help while she was actually hospitalized, it also meant her pension checks were higher than if she'd had to retire when she first got sick.

The moral: don't waste sick leave frivolously.
posted by easily confused at 8:05 AM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you could also use it if you were offered work when you were sick. Essentially you'd be handing it off instantly. Yes, I'll take the work. Now I'm on sick leave.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:20 AM on May 14, 2015

I was able to use accumulated sick leave for scheduled doctor and dental appointments that needed to take place during the day. I could use 2 hours of leave, or 4 hours, or whatever was needed. I got a lot of dental work, mammogram, etc. without losing pay. Whether your employer allows this might be in an employee policy handbook, but this might be a possibility. I did this because I was a long-time employee and had about 20 weeks of leave banked, so a day here or there used for these appointments wasn't frivolous. In fact, I left that job and all that sick leave behind, but if I'd had breast cancer or a car crash or something else that would have kept me out of work, I had a good deep bank of paychecks and benefits in reserve, which is always a good idea.
posted by citygirl at 5:55 PM on May 14, 2015

Does your company allow employees to donate sick leave to one another? When I was diagnosed with cancer and got sicker than anyone anticipated during chemo, I had to take 5 months off. I had a month of sick leave, and my colleagues donated another 2 months of their sick leave so I could continue to get paid during that time. I never thought I would be the recipient of this generosity, but I always loved that our organization had it as a policy.
posted by deliciae at 11:00 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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