On May 11, 2021, the City of Philadelphia enacted amendments to include additional protections for victims of domestic violence under the city’s paid sick and safe time law known as the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance (Philadelphia PSL) which has been in effect since August 1, 2015. This law requires employers to provide covered employees who work in Philadelphia with sick leave, provide employees notice of their rights under the law, and track sick leave use and accrual for two years.  In addition to providing sick leave benefits, Philadelphia PSL provides employees with job-protected leave for certain reasons if they or a family member is a victim of domestic violence. The amount of leave and pay status varies based on type of leave and on employer size. This article provides an overview of Philadelphia PSL and highlights the recent amendments.

Overview of Philadelphia PSL

Covered Employers

Employers with ten (10) or more employees must provide paid sick leave. Employers with nine (9) or fewer employees must provide unpaid sick leave. Employers may choose to either use an accrual or front load system for sick leave hours.

Covered Employees

Covered employees include all full-time and part-time employees who work at least 40 hours per year in the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia PSL excludes the following categories of workers: independent contractors, seasonal workers, adjunct professors, employees hired for less than 6 months, interns, pool employees, employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, and state & federal employees.

What is the Rate of Accrual?

Covered employees accrue one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked and can use up to 40 hours of sick leave per year, unless the employer permits a higher limit. Employees must be employed for at least 90 days before they are eligible to use any accrued sick leave. Unused sick leave carries over to the next year; however, the cap for use of sick leave per calendar year still applies (i.e., 40 hours, or a higher amount if the employer permits).

What are the Qualifying Reasons for Philadelphia PSL?

Covered employees can use Philadelphia PSL when they or certain family members:

  1. Need diagnosis, care, or treatment of a health condition—including behavioral health;
  2. Need preventative care;
  3. Experience domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.

The May 2021 amendment to Philadelphia PSL also adds “coercive control” under the definition of domestic abuse and expands and broadens the qualifying reasons an employee may request protected leave under the Ordinance.

Employers may require that sick leave be used in reasonable minimum increments of an hour, or any smaller increment used by the employer to account for absences.

Request for Sick Leave and Documentation

Sick leave must be provided upon oral or written request from the employee. However, employees are required to provide reasonable advance notification if the need for sick leave is foreseeable. If the need for sick leave is unforeseeable, then the employee must provide the employer with notice as soon as practicable. An employer may only require reasonable documentation from an employee if the employee uses sick leave for more than two consecutive days. Employers are not permitted to require documentation of the nature or details of the illness or violence.

Employer Notice Requirement

Employers must provide notice to employees of their right to sick leave, including details and terms of the sick leave. Notice can be provided either (1) by written notice, or (2) by displaying a poster prepared by the City in a conspicuous and accessible location. If the employer has an employee handbook, it must include the same information.


Employers are required to maintain records of the hours worked, amount of sick leave taken, and any payments made to employees for sick leave. The records must be kept for two years, and upon request, employers must make these records available to the City enforcement agency.

Prohibition on Retaliation

Employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against employees who exercise their rights under Philadelphia PSL or who participate in an investigation or prosecution of any alleged violation of the Ordinance.

How does Philadelphia PSL Interact with Philadelphia’s Unpaid Safe Time Law?

Under the City’s unpaid safe time leave ordinance, employers with 50 or more employees on each working day during 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year must allow employees to use eight workweeks of leave during a 12-month period, whereas those with 49 or fewer employees on each day during 33 or more calendar workweeks must allow up to four workweeks of leave. Philadelphia PSL runs consecutively with the City’s unpaid safe time law. This means that after exhausting Philadelphia PSL, employees may take additional leave under the unpaid safe time leave ordinance.

Employer Considerations

Employers with employees in Philadelphia should be aware of the expanded qualifying reasons that an employee may request protected leave under Philadelphia PSL. Covered employers should be sure to review their paid sick leave and/or PTO policies and procedures to ensure they comply with the documentation and recordkeeping requirements of Philadelphia PSL.

Additional Resources

Lizet Ramirez – Lizet is a Client Compliance Manager for Sequoia One, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Lizet enjoys live music, travel, hiking and spa days.