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Davis Brown Employment and Labor Law Blog

HR Quick Take: Changing Sick Leave Policies and COVID-19 - March 17, 2020

Q: My company has a policy where you can only take sick leave if you are actually sick. Can we amend this for the current Coronavirus circumstance without having to change it forever?

A: Yes – you can temporarily amend your policies and allow people to use all available paid time off regardless of if it is vacation or sick. You will want to be clear that you are amending the policies for the duration of the current issues relating to COVID-19 and that you will continue to assess the circumstances and make further temporary policy changes as needed. This may apply to other policies as well on a temporary basis like the amount of leave you can take and restrictions on borrowing against leave. There may also be employees who qualify for other benefits if out or ill. It is possible that you could continue – at the employee’s choice, to allow them to supplement any external paid benefit (e.g. workers comp, short-term disability, etc.) with existing PTO during the current pandemic. Note that if you are allowing employees to use PTO when they have other paid benefits available this generally has to be by the employee’s consent/request.

HR Quick Takes features client questions and answers from Iowa employment attorneys. If you have a question you’d like answered, email

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