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Labour and Employment Law – the Same or Different?


Labour and employment law are often terms used interchangeably. In actual fact, there is a difference between labour and employment law. Labour laws usually deal with employer-union relationships and employment laws with employer-employee relationships. Is this a distinction without a difference? Possibly, unless you happen to deal in labour and employment law on a regular basis and the distinction is important to your business.

Well, for the purposes of this short article, you will be reading about employer-employee relationships in the area of sick leave pay. As you know, most US employers offer sick leave pay. You will find some also offer accrued sick leave pay when employees quit or are laid off. This is mostly used as a benefit to attract and keep employees. However, this is NOT mandated under labour and employment law, it is strictly voluntary.

So great, where does that leave an employee? If an employer does offer sick leave pay, then you are entitled to it – so long as you comply with terms and conditions in related policies or your employment contract. Since this is a totally voluntary benefit, labour and employment law has no effect on this. So basically, it is up to the employer to follow through or not. However, there may be a loophole here should you need one. If company sick leave policy states you need a Doctor's note and the company doesn't consistently apply this to everyone, you may be able to sue.

What about sick leave of your own or a family member? If this sick leave pay is totally voluntary and not governed by labour and employment law where does that leave you? Here you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act and may have up to 12 weeks of sick leave for your own or a family member's illness. This is without losing your job or group health benefits. So that's good news.
You may recall that something dubbed the Healthy Americans Act was first introduced in the US Senate in 2005. The idea was to compel employers to provide annual sick leave benefits to workers who logged at least 1,500 hours in a year. That first Act didn't get anywhere and was reborn as the Healthy Americans Act of 2007.
In a nutshell this act (if it passes) would dissolve all employer-based insurance. It would mandate every employer who covered his employees in 2006 convert the total they spent on insurance into salary increases. Whoa what a pay raise that would be! Employers would be legislated to do this, but would want to because every year health costs go up at least 10 percent or more. If the total for employers freezes at 2006 levels, employers would be exempt from 2007's increase. There no indication this Act will pass in 2007.

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