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North Carolina PTO in 2024: What Employers Need to Know

Employers must understand North Carolina PTO laws are essential components of employment benefits. Paid time off encompasses a range of leave types, such as vacation, sick leave, and other special-purpose leaves. Employers in the state must adhere to federal rules such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and state laws. 

Understanding PTO laws is crucial for employers and employees, as they impact workplace productivity, employee well-being, and compliance with legal standards. This guide for employers provides essential guidelines about North Carolina PTO laws. 

North Carolina necessitates the implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for all employers. Enacted in 1993, FMLA entitles the employees of all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees to unpaid leave. Under the provisions of FMLA, all eligible employees in the state have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for family or medical reasons. 

Employees can take FMLA leaves for several reasons:

  • The birth and care of a newborn child of the employee.
  • The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care.
  • Attend medical needs of an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) suffering from a serious health condition.
  • To time off when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
  • For any qualifying exigency if the employee is family to a military member on “covered active duty.”

To be eligible to benefit under FMLA, an employee should meet the following eligibility requirements: 

  •  Employees must work for a covered employer for at least 12 months
  •   Have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months
  • Work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles

FMLA only applies when time off is for medical and family care reasons. Here are the primary leaves included in the FMLA provisions. 

Maternal and Paternal Leave

North Carolina has no specific state or local maternal and paternal leave laws. However, all employers should follow the FMLA guidelines for maternal and paternal leave. Under the FMLA, employees can take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. This provision applies to both mothers and fathers, ensuring equitable access to parental leave. 

Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Pregnancy Disability Act

FMLA has ensured that there is no discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), enacted in 1978, prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, ensuring that pregnant employees are treated fairly in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, and benefits.

The Pregnancy Disability Act provides additional protection for employees with pregnancy-related disabilities. This includes access to sick leave, modified work duties, or other reasonable accommodations, ensuring that pregnant employees are not disadvantaged in the workplace due to their condition.

Child Care Leave

FMLA also includes provisions for child care leave, allowing parents to take time off to care for a child with a serious health condition. 

North Carolina also has the Small Necessities Law, also known as Parental Involvement Leave, which is part of the child care leave. It allows employees (parents, guardians, or someone standing in Loco Parentis (acting in place of parents)) to take up to 4 hours of unpaid leave to attend a child’s school-related activities. 

Family Illness Leave

Family illness leave is a special provision that allows employees to take unpaid time off due to a family member’s severe medical condition. Employees cannot use family illness leave for their own medical care needs. Under this provision, an employee can take up to 52 weeks of unpaid time off over 5 years. They can use this leave once they have exhausted their FMLA benefits.

Paid Time Off in North Carolina

North Carolina has no provisions for offering paid time off except paid parental leave. New parents can take 4 to 8 weeks of paid time off to recover from childbirth or bond with their newborn. While North Carolina does not have a state-mandated PTO policy, employers typically offer PTO as part of their benefits package to attract and retain employees.

As there are no NC PTO laws, employers can decide the Accrual System if they allow paid time off for their employees. Generally, employers in the state allow employees to accumulate leave over time based on their length of service or the number of hours they work. An accrual system incentivizes long-term employment and provides employees with progressively greater benefits over time.

Additionally, North Carolina allows a use-it-or-lose-it policy that prohibits employees from rolling over unused PTO from one year to the next. Employers can require employees to use their PTO within a specific timeframe or forfeit it. 

Paid Leaves in North Carolina

One of the most important aspects of North Carolina PTO laws employers must consider while outlining their policies is paid leave. In the state, there are several types of paid leave, such as parental leave, organ donorship leave, and disaster service leave.

Parental Leave

North Carolina provides paid parental leave for state employees, ensuring new parents have time to bond with their children without worrying about lost wages. At the same time, private employers must provide paid time off for parental leave of up to 4 to 8 weeks. It applies to a child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Eligible employees can take paid parental leave, which can be used consecutively or intermittently within 12 months of the qualifying event. This leave ensures parents have sufficient time to adjust to their new family dynamic and attend to their child’s needs.

Organ Donorship Leave

North Carolina supports organ and bone marrow donation by requiring employers to allow paid time off for employees who donate. The organ donorship leave gives employees the right to take up to 30 days of paid leave for organ donation or up to 7 days for bone marrow donation.

American Red Cross Disaster Service Leave

Employees who are a part of the American Red Cross disaster service can take up to 15 days of paid leave annually to assist with disaster recovery efforts. Eligible employees can take up to 15 paid days within 12 months.  

Vacation Leave

Vacation leave policies vary among private employers in North Carolina, with some offering paid vacation while others do not. For North Carolina state employees, vacation leave is typically accrued based on years of service. Here are the duration and corresponding vacation days annually:

  • Worked for less than 5 years – Receive 14 vacation days per year
  • Worked for 5-10 years – Receive 17 vacation days per year
  • Worked for 15-20 years – Receive 23 vacation days per year
  • Worked for 20 or more years – Receive 26 vacation days per year

Employees can utilize their vacation time as needed.[b1] 

Military Leave

North Carolina allows paid military leave to state employees, while private employees can be paid or unpaid depending on company policies.

State employees can take up to 120 hours of paid time off per fiscal year. This ensures that employees can fulfil their military obligations without losing their civilian jobs. Those on reserve duty can take up to 30 days off with pay, while those in civil air patrol and state defense militia can be granted 120 hours of paid/unpaid time off in a calendar year.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is the federal providing military service members the right to reemployment. It ensures that service members who leave their civilian jobs to perform military service can return to their jobs with the same seniority, status, pay, and other rights as if they had remained continuously employed.

Under USERRA, service members may continue their group health coverage for up to 24 months when called for active service. Additionally, they can take up to 5 years of unpaid time off from their employment to serve in the military.  

Sick Leave in North Carolina

North Carolina doesn’t mandate paid sick time off. All employers are required to follow the FMLA guidelines for paid leave; there are no additional state laws. Under the FMLA, all employees can receive up to 12 weeks of time off if eligible. The employees should have worked with their current employer for at least a year to be eligible. They should have worked for at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months and should be working at a site where 50 or more employees are working within a 75-mile radius. 

Sick leave provides sufficient time to cover illnesses, medical appointments, or other health-related needs. Employees can also use the time for family members’ medical needs, such as caring for a sick child or spouse. 

Private employers in North Carolina can provide additional sick leave to their employees.  The specifics of sick leave policies, such as accrual rates and maximum allowable leave, can vary depending on the employer and the terms outlined in the employment contract or employee handbook.

Voting Leave in North Carolina

There is no North Carolina PTO law regarding voting leave, so employers can provide it as a benefit. While there is no legal obligation to provide voting leave, offering this benefit or supporting alternative voting options aligns with a broader commitment to civic engagement and employee welfare. If employers offer voting leave, they have sole discretion to decide whether it is paid or unpaid. 

Jury Duty Leave

Jury duty is a civic responsibility that ensures the legal system functions effectively and fairly. North Carolina requires employers to allow employees time off if they are called for jury duty. While employers are not required to pay employees for jury duty leave, they must allow employees to fulfill this duty without penalty or retaliation. Still, some employers choose to offer paid leave as a benefit. The employee handbook or employment contract typically outlines the decision to offer paid jury duty leave.

The court compensates jurors in North Carolina. The compensation is $12 for the first day of service and $20 for each subsequent day. If a juror serves for more than five days, the compensation increases to $40 each day after the fifth day.

Community Service Leave

Community service leave in North Carolina is only available to state employees. It gives them time off for volunteering and community involvement. This leave is available to volunteer in schools, directly benefiting the educational process for students. State employees can also use community service leave to participate in volunteer activities that support community service organizations or programs and attend parent-teacher conferences or educational activities for their children.

The community service leave available to state employees is up to 24 hours per calendar year for full-time employees and none for part-time employees.    

Bereavement Leave

Bereavement leave or funeral leave is the time off that allows employees to grieve the loss of a loved one and manage the arrangements surrounding a death. North Carolina has no specific law requiring employers to provide bereavement leave. Generally, employers offer this benefit as part of their leave policies to support employees during difficult times. 

Bereavement leave policies in North Carolina, such as paid or unpaid leave, typically vary at the employer’s discretion.

PTO Payout on Termination in North Carolina

Employees often accrue unused vacation time at the end of their service, whether through resignation, retirement, or termination. Employers must understand how accruals and payouts of unused PTO are handled in North Carolina.

In North Carolina, employers are not legally required to pay out accrued, unused vacation time upon termination unless their policies or employment contracts state otherwise. This is why employers must create clear payout policies or any specific agreements and communicate them to their employees. These policies should be outlined in the employee handbook or employment contract and must be consistently followed. Employers who promise to pay out accrued vacation time in writing or through consistent practice are generally obligated to fulfill this promise.

How can Truein help with Paid time off management?

Managing paid time off effectively is crucial for every employer to ensure smooth operations, employee satisfaction, and compliance with legal requirements. 

Truein is an innovative, easy-to-implement, cloud-based, and mobile-based time and attendance management solution that offers features for PTO management, streamlining processes, and enhancing the overall efficiency of businesses. With Truein, employers can centralize their PTO tracking, consolidating all leave types in one easy-to-use Leave and Attendance Management System, including vacation, sick leave, and personal days. It also benefits employees as they can view their real-time PTO balances, enabling them to plan their time off effectively. This transparency fosters trust between employees and employers and prevents potential disputes over leave entitlements. 

Employers can use Truein to automate PTO accrual based on the company’s policies, ensuring that employees earn leave accurately based on their service time or hours worked. Truein also streamlines the PTO request and approval process, preventing scheduling conflicts and ensuring parties are on the same page.

Truein enhances compliance and reporting for PTO management as you can define the rules for compliance as per the local laws, helping businesses adhere to legal requirements and maintain accurate records. 

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Management of paid time off policies and obligations is essential for compliance. North Carolina has a simpler PTO law framework that mostly extends federal laws. Employers can leverage technology solutions like Truein to streamline their PTO management and provide employees with the necessary benefits. 

Ensure that your policies comply with North Carolina PTO laws to ensure compliance and support for employees’ personal and family needs.

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