Paid Leave Glossary

Our paid leave glossary offers general descriptions of paid leave terms that will vary by jurisdiction. For a definition specific to a jurisdiction, refer to the defined term within that jurisdiction’s statutes and regulations.

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Accrual Rate

The rate at which an employee earns paid leave. For example, one hour for every 30 hours worked.

Any Reason

Paid sick leave generally must be used for specific reasons, like an individual’s own illness or to care for a covered family member who is ill. However, certain jurisdictions’ paid sick leave may be taken for any reason.


Benefit Year

This is a term generally associated with paid family and medical leave. A benefit year is a rolling calendar of 52 weeks starting on the first week an employee takes leave through a leave program. Different types of paid leave have different maximum amounts of leave that can be taken by an employee in any benefit year.

Business Size

Some paid leave laws apply only to certain size employers, or the paid leave benefits for employees differ based on the size of the employer. Generally, the size of the employer is dependent on the number of employees. Which employees must be counted to calculate the size of the employer — such as whether to include temporary workers, seasonal workers, etc. — can vary by jurisdiction.


Collective Bargaining Agreement

A collective bargaining agreement is a legal contract outlining employment terms between an employee union and the employer. Some paid leave laws do not apply to employers whose workers are covered under a collective bargaining agreement.

Covered Employee

A covered employee is one who meets the qualifications for a paid leave law, such as having been employed a certain amount of time or works a designated number of hours per year in a jurisdiction.

Covered Employer

A covered employer is one that meets the parameters of the paid leave law. It may depend on number of employers, gross receipts and other factors.


Designated Family Member

Some paid leave laws allow employees to take time off to care for a covered family member who is ill. In some jurisdictions, an employee can identify someone who is not related to the employee by blood or marriage as a “designated family member.” Doing so qualifies that person to essentially be a covered family member, and the employee can use paid leave to care for the individual if they become ill.


Effective Date

The date on which a paid leave law goes into effect.

Eligible Uses

The eligible reasons an employee may take paid leave under a paid leave law. The reasons vary depending on each jurisdiction, and there are differing reasons under the paid sick leave laws and the paid family and medical leave laws.

Employee Requests for Time Off

When an employee makes a request to use paid leave. Paid leave laws have varying requirements of employees when making a request to use paid leave.

Existing Paid Time Off Policies

An employer’s regular paid time off policy, which may, if it meets the requirements of the paid leave law, remove the employer from providing any further leave under the jurisdiction’s paid leave law.



The Family and Medical Leave Act, which entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.

Family Member

A family member is the type of person an employee can use paid family and medical leave to care for. Some jurisdictions have a much broader definition of “family member” than others.


Frontloading is the ability of an employee to provide all annual paid leave hours at the start of the year. Most jurisdictions allow frontloading but there are a few that do not.

Funding Mechanisms

The funding mechanism is the manner by which a jurisdiction has decided to fund a paid leave law, i.e., employee payroll taxes.




Incremental Use

Incremental use, under paid leave laws, is the smallest number of hours an employer can require an employee to take at one time.

Intermittent Use

Non-consecutive day use of paid leave for the same medical condition.


Job Protection

The requirement that an employer must allow an employee who uses paid leave to return to his or her previous position.



Labor Law Postings

Most jurisdictions require employers to display a poster in their workplace advising employees of their rights under the jurisdiction’s paid leave law. These are required to be displayed in a conspicuous place for employees.


Max Accrual Cap

The total number of paid leave hours an employee can accrue in a given time period.

Max Use

The maximum number of paid leave hours an employee can use in a year.

Military Exigencies

The ability for an employee to use paid leave for reasons related to military circumstances.




Paid Family and Medical Leave

Paid family and medical leave allows workers to use paid leave to care for medical or family reasons. Eligible reasons for use vary by jurisdiction.

Paid Parental Leave

Paid leave to care for a newborn, adopted, or recently placed foster child.

Paid Sick Leave

Paid sick leave allows employees to take paid time off to care for themselves. Eligible reasons for use vary by jurisdiction.

Payment Requirements

The rate of pay an employee must receive while using paid leave.

Public Health Emergency

A stipulation in some paid leave laws that allows employees to use paid leave in the event of a larger crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Health Quarantine

A stipulation in some paid leave laws that allows workers to use paid leave in the event that they are required to stay home and cannot perform their duties remotely as a result of a public health emergency.

Payout Upon Separation

Paid leave laws generally specify whether earned, unused paid leave must be paid out to workers when they leave the employer’s employ. Generally, paid sick leave is not required to be paid out when an employee leaves a business.




Documentation that an employer is required to maintain related to paid leave taken by its employees. It generally includes the amount of paid leave provided to employees and the amount of paid leave taken by each employee. Records must be kept for a period of time (years) based on each jurisdiction’s requirements.

Reinstatement of Paid Sick Leave

Paid leave laws sometimes require an employer to provide an employee with his or her accrued unused paid leave if they are re-employed with the same employer within a certain period of time, such as one year from separation date.


Adverse actions – reduced hours, for example – qualify as retaliation. Generally, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for using paid leave.


Paid sick leave laws require employees to be allowed to rollover accrued unused paid leave from one year to the next. That carryover is most commonly 40 hours of leave. But, again, different jurisdictions have different rules.


Sick and Safe Time

Sick and safe time is another term used for paid sick leave and, when the term “safe time” is used, it includes paid time off for reasons related to domestic violence. Not all paid sick leave that includes time off for domestic violence reasons uses the term “safe time.”


Temporary Caregiver Paid Leave

Another name for a type of paid family and medical leave. Rhode Island uses this name for its law, for example.




Waiting Period

The time between an employee’s start date and the first date he or she is eligible to use paid leave.




Created January 2021; Copyright © 2021 GovDocs, Inc. GovDocs is a registered trademark of GovDocs, Inc. This paid leave glossary is intended for market awareness only. It is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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